If Hosea Prophesied in 21st Century America

Hosea’s story is a bleak one. God calls him to marry an unfaithful woman. It’s often debated whether or not she was unfaithful when God called Hosea to marry her, or if she turned that way. The answer to that question probably made little difference in the day to day workings of Hosea’s home. His wife was unfaithful. Period. There are clues to the text that his children aren’t really his, and likely they weren’t model Israelite citizens.

Hosea isn’t fundamentally about Hosea. It is about God. But God’s story is told through the deep pain of Hosea. This prophets life would not have been rosy. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to be married to Gomer. Or to raise troubled children that are not your own. There faces everyday reminding you of your wife’s unfaithfulness. I do not have personal experience with this. Hosea did. And it shaped his message.

That truth has me wondering what would happen if Hosea were a prophet in the 21st century. Before I give my analysis I must confess that I am not a cultural guru. I do not have a Ph.D in postmodern thought. Nor did I pay attention in my college sociology class. But I am “in the trenches” ministering to adults and teenagers in the 21st century. And it seems to me that in our culture if your message is somehow shaped by your personal experiences then it is in the realm of subjective and not objective. It is tainted.

I wonder then what people in the 21st century would say when Hosea says, “you play the whore, O Israel…”

“Bitter much?”

“Come on Hosea, we know you’re just hurt by what is going on in your home life. You’re being too sharp because you’re carrying over the hurt that your harlot wife has caused you. You’re looking for somebody to blame for your pain and trying to spiritualize it by calling us harlots and saying it is a metaphor for how Yahweh feels about us.”

The power of Hosea’s metaphor would be dismissed. His message is shaped too much by his own personal situation. Therefore, Hosea’s truth might work for him or for other people that are struggling like He is, but it is not for everyone. “You can’t call the entire nation a whore just because your wife is one, Hosea.”

For Today

But Hosea was telling objective truth. And he was doing it through his very real personal pain. You better believe that Hosea was impacted by his home life. But Hosea isn’t fundamentally about Hosea. It’s about God. And God is using Hosea’s story to tell His own. God is using the subjective story of Hosea to proclaim His objective truth.

The 21st century preacher finds himself in a difficult spot. The culture tells him that he must be real and he must be authentic. Which is helpful and solid advice. But inevitably the more real the preacher gets the more easily what he is proclaiming can be dismissed. The preacher’s message is effected by the preacher.

I am not saying that the preacher has a license to change the objective truth of God’s Word. Far from it. But what I am saying is that God can use my subjective life story to proclaim His objective truth. The message isn’t tainted because the messenger is deeply impacted by the message. It’s tainted if doesn’t impact the preacher.


  1. Bruce H. says

    Let’s not let God’s sovereignty and providence bypass His wisdom. His wisdom sees the end from the beginning, so there is no need to guess or conjecture. He has the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve those ends by the most perfect means. He sees everything in focus, each in proper relation to all, and is thus able to work toward predestined goals with flawless precision. Whatever we go through is His divine plan and we shouldn’t just accept it or endure it, we should enjoy it because it is His plan for our lives.

  2. Christiane says

    what comes to mind in reading this post, this . . .


    “Sow to yourselves in righteousness,
    reap in mercy;
    break up your fallow ground:
    for it is time to seek the LORD,
    till He come and rain righteousness upon you.”
    (Hosea 10:12)

    And also comes one of the Lenten gospel readings from St. Luke, this:

    Gospel Lk 18:9-14
    (Jesus addressed this parable
    to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
    and despised everyone else.)
    “Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
    one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
    The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
    ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —
    greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.
    I fast twice a week,
    and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
    But the tax collector stood off at a distance
    and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
    but beat his breast and prayed,
    ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
    I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
    for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
    and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    the journey of a Christian with Christ towards Calvary and towards the moment of the Resurrection is a journey that is sometimes an interior one, when we ‘break up our own fallow ground';
    and recognizing that the proud ‘Pharisee’ exists within ourselves, we then choose to seek a more humbled path towards Our Risen Lord

    The call of Hosea’s words ‘break up your fallow ground’ bring us to a time of personal struggle with our own sometimes resolute pride, because if we are to be open to the grace of God, we cannot afford to carry self-righteousness that both judges and assumes superiority over other sinners.

  3. says

    Mike, sounds like you’re bumping into the same kind of thing that prompted C. S. Lewis to coin the term ‘Bulverism’, back in the 1940’s (there’s a decent description in Wikipedia, and the external links point to the full text of the essay where Lewis coined the term). Modern culture tends to get the cart before the horse, speculating on why someone is ‘wrong’, without bothering to actually show *that* they are wrong.

  4. Max says

    Good piece Mike! I’ve been reading Hosea and Amos lately and struck with the thought that the 21st century church needs a dose of their preachin’! Ephraim is joined to idols. We need a prophet to take the pulpit again … Lord knows we’ve got enough preacher teachers in the bunch. A “Thus saith the Lord” might just turn the church and the nation around. Bible schools and seminaries are OK, but we could use some servants of God which have been trained in the wilderness to come forth. Yep, America needs a prophet or two to speak.

    • Joshua T says

      Not to stir the pot too much Max. But I wonder if we have any genuine “preacher” if we don’t have prophets. I see Jesus and John being described as preaching the gospel of the kingdom by emphasizing two simple thing: 1) repent and 2) the kingdom is near.

      We shouldn’t be surprised that when we stop hearing 1) repent and 2) the kingdom is here , that the gospel seems to sag. The prophet and preaching pastor share very similar roles.


  5. Truth Unites... and Divides says

    The power of Hosea’s metaphor would be dismissed. His message is shaped too much by his own personal situation. Therefore, Hosea’s truth might work for him or for other people that are struggling like He is, but it is not for everyone. “You can’t call the entire nation a whore just because your wife is one, Hosea.””


  6. Jess Alford says

    Hosea would never make it past the search committee. He is not the ruler of his own house. He has too much baggage to be thinking about preaching.

    The Apostle Paul caused problems in every town he entered. He wouldn’t make it past the search committee.

    Sad, sad, sad.