TODAY’S READING: Hosea 1–7
Hosea is the only prophet who was from Israel; all the others were from Judah. A contemporary of Amos, Hosea’s message was unique. While Amos spoke against oppression, injustice, and the greedy rich, Hosea spoke “against the worship of the Canaanite deities, such as Baal and Asherah. These religions stressed rituals that were designed to promote the fertility of the land; among these rituals was sexual intercourse with official cult prostitutes.” The Lord asked Hosea to live out His message contextually. Preaching against immorality, Hosea was required to feel the pain of adultery even as he railed against it. A critical missionary lesson from Hosea is that God wants us to deeply share His pain, not just spout His message. The message of missions is that the whole world is under the wrath of a holy God, but to enjoy spreading that message without entering into the pain it causes the God of love is to have the right message with the wrong spirit. Prophets weep, not gloat. The prophetic agony is that your words will come true despite your own longing against their fulfilment. To be missionary must include great mourning over the lost.
There is another critical missions component in Hosea. “It is important to remember how surprising the prophets’ words were to the people who heard them. They were messages of judgment, holiness, restoration for the Jews and in inclusion for the Gentiles. They were hard for listeners to understand. Even the prophets themselves were amazed. They longed to understand fully what was coming next in God’s great plan.”  The prophets were missionary minded; how can they not be? They must pass on the heart of God, and God’s heart is missionary. If you are prophetic without being missionary, you are just a mean cynic. Prophecy’s ultimate goal is the glory of God among all nations.
If missionaries must have hard heads and prophets must have thick skins, then a missionary prophet like Hosea would have the grit to press through personal betrayal to express hope of redemption for the nations and their Husband. Imagine the range of emotion in Hosea—he experienced the most bitter pain, yet he held to global hope. Hosea’s words in chapter 3 will be artfully used by James in Acts 15 when the church finally codified Gentile inclusion in the gospel. James used the “after these things” prophecy to point to the eschatological return of the Lord and the restoration of Davidic rule as indicative of the necessity to let the Gentiles into the community of faith. Hosea dimly saw it, even if he did not understand the how. Like Hosea, all who would carry God’s missionary heart must long for the inclusion of all peoples in the family of God, must be willing to experience both the pain of the Lord at betrayal and the pain of the lost in betraying, and must not be impassioned or unsympathetic heralds. Let us weep as we warn. Let us live what we preach. Let us never forget the prophetic word of God always holds out inclusive hope for all the unreached peoples of earth.