Hosea tells a heartbreaking—and for many, a perplexing—story about a prophet told to marry a prostitute. This book is filled with cycle after cycle of promises of judgment.
But according to David Murray, professor of Old Testament and practical theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Hosea gives teachers the opportunity to present people with vivid pictures of God as a faithful husband intent on loving his unfaithful wife, a parent whose heart is twisted up inside him over the effect of his child’s sin, and so much more.
In context of all of God’s uncomfortable promises to judge his people in heartbreaking ways, Murray points out God’s repeated promises throughout the book to live, to save, to redeem, and to restore his people to himself after they’ve wandered away from him.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
David Murray: As long as people think of God as a fallacy, as a holier than thou, detached, looking down on, just condemning, criticizing and judging, there’s no pull, there’s no attraction, there’s no desire. But if we can show people the God of Hosea, the God of Gomer actually, then I think we begin to break down barriers and begin to give people hope that this God could be my God.
Nancy Guthrie: Welcome to “Help Me Teach the Bible,” I’m Nancy Guthrie. Help Me Teach the Bible is a production of the gospel coalition sponsored by Crossway, a not for profit publisher of the ESV Bible, Christian books and tracks. Learn more at crossway.org. My guest today on Help Me Teach the Bible is one of my favorite Bible teachers, someone from whom I have learned so much and just enjoy so much getting to talk about the Bible with him. And that is David Murray. David, thank you for being willing to help us teach the Bible.
Murray: Oh, thank you, Nancy. These are very kind words, I don’t deserve them, but I do admit we shared a mutual love for teaching the Bible and we do get a lot of excitement and joy from it.
Guthrie: It is a great joy. So we were gonna record earlier. But Dr. Murray had to go and defend his doctoral thesis, was it in Edinborough you went to do that?
Murray: That was in Amsterdam, actually…
Guthrie: Amsterdam, okay.
Murray: …it was at the Free University of Amsterdam.
Guthrie: And so you now have your doctorate in what?
Murray: Matthew Henry’s apologetics, believe it or not, and yes, he was an apologist and my dissertation is basically trying to represent him as more than a commentator, as someone who was also an apologist who used especially the happiness of Christianity to defend and commend Christianity in this culture.
Guthrie: Do you hope to publish something with this work?
Murray: I hope so. I hope to probably publish a dissertation with an academic publisher. And then I’d like to popularize it a bit and produce something that’s a wee bit more accessible.
Guthrie: Yeah, awesome. So Dr. Murray is a professor of Old Testament and practical theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids. And this might be a good time to tell you, David, there is one thing we don’t share in common.
Guthrie: And that is any kind of understanding or knowledge on the Puritans.
Guthrie: Okay. But I’m telling you this because in two days, I’m gonna leave and I’m gonna go and take a class on Puritan theology taught by your fellow Scott Sinclair Ferguson.
Guthrie: Yeah, at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando.
Murray: Wonderful. Oh wow, I wish I could be there.
Guthrie: Well, I’m telling you after four days studying the Puritans, I’m probably gonna know more than you. So…
Murray:: You probably will.
Guthrie: No, I kind of doubt it. No, but here’s what I’m hoping. I’m hoping that when I come home, and I have to figure out what to write for a paper for the class, that maybe you’ll slip me some ideas and some good ideas for sources to help me write that paper because I find writing papers, academic papers, incredibly difficult.
Murray: Oh, I know, it’s difficult. I know especially when you’re used to writing a popular label as you are, Nancy?
Murray:: You know, making deep theology accessible, then you have to go the opposite way.
Murray: And make this simple, complicated.
Guthrie: Exactly, exactly. Yeah, I read my papers, and I think that sounds too casual, and probably not what they want. But anyway, I’m counting on you to help me.
Murray:: I’ll help you.
Guthrie: Thank you.
Murray: And please tell Sinclair I’ve been asking for him.
Guthrie: Okay, I will. All right, so you have written a number of books. One of my favorites, as you know is, Jesus On Every Page, which is a book I recommend quite often when people are just starting to get a sense for how to understand Christ throughout all of the Scriptures. I think one that might be of interest to a lot of people listening to this podcast is one you wrote called How Sermons Work. Then you wrote Reset, and then with your wife, Refresh. So let’s get the two… Also blog. I love your blog, “HeadHeartHand.” So it’s at headhearthand.org. Once again, quite often people will write me asking for resources on how to understand Christ throughout the Old Testament and you’ve got a number of lists on your blog, like your best online articles on Christ in the Old Testament. That’s when I came to link to quite often.
We’re gonna talk about the book of Hosea today. But before we do, I wanna ask you about something I’ve read and seen on your blog, that I also think might be helpful to our listeners. So you’ve done a couple of blog posts about a book called “The Compelling Communicator: Mastering the Art and Science of Exceptional Presentation Design.” And then you also, along with that, promote some software that goes with it called “Message Architect,” so I’m completely uninitiated, I don’t know anything. Tell me what that is. And tell me why I might be interested in that and other Bible teachers who are listening might be interested in that.
Murray:: Sure. Well, Nancy, I’m always looking to improve my teaching, my preaching, my communication skills. I think we’re called to do that as preachers, not just rely on the Holy Spirit but also develop in our abilities, fan into flame the good gifts God has given us. And this was a book that was recommended to me when I was teaching at Western Seminary in Portland in the summer. And it was used in an advanced homiletics class. And the book is, as you said, “The Compelling Communicator.” So I went home and I got it. And it’s not actually a homiletics book, a preaching book, it’s not even a Christian book. It’s actually written by Tim Pollard, who does mainly corporate and institutional presentations. But as I read through it, I just thought there’s a genius in this method that I think could be adapted and applied to preaching.
So, you know, we’re not trying to turn sermons into PowerPoint presentations. But I think what Tim Pollard has done here in the book and in the accompanying software is provide a way of helping Bible teachers get to a very compelling messages. And actually, a lot of it is based on brain science. So we surveyed a lot of brain science, how the human mind works. And then, okay, well, if that’s the way the human mind work, here is how we must work with it rather than against it. And so I’ve spent a couple of months on this and began to adapt it, so that it’s really Bible based and works with a textual expository approach to the Bible. And it’s really helped me to identify the message of the text better, helped me to connect the text with my heaters better and I use it to teach my students in the past six months as well. They’ve just loved, it sort of bridge the gap between the text and the sermon, like how do you get from all this exegetical work to a compelling sermon. So yeah, people can look it up on Amazon, the book, or you get the free software with that or have a look at my blog and there’s a couple of videos there, but I’ve worked through a few messages and just show you how I’ve used it. And I’ve been really enjoying it and I feel like it’s a very useful resource. It’s another tool in the toolbox as it were, to help us communicate the Bible more compellingly.
Guthrie: When I read the subtitle “Exceptional Presentation Design,” it makes me think that it’s gonna have something to do with visual presentation. But it’s more formulating how the message is communicated?
Murray:Yeah, exactly. And it’s not, you know, accompanying your sermons with PowerPoint at all. It’s really, and you know, asking what is the problem that this text identifies, what is the solution the text identifies or the action, who’s not supported by insights from the text, how are these insights supported by the data of the text. So it’s very text-centered, and yet, I really believe it helps us get the text across in a better way than maybe many traditional methods of designing sermons, homiletic methodology. So I’m not saying, you know, use this all the time, but I think it’s another tool in the toolbox that can help us vary the way we communicate God’s word.
Guthrie: Yeah. Well, that’s fascinating. Thank you for telling me about that.
Murray: Actually, I can follow up on that. I contacted Tim and he contacted me through his assistant and said he had no idea ministers were using this. But he himself is a Christian, and he’s been very keen to develop it for Christian communicators. So we’re making contact early in this new year with a view to trying to tweak his method so that it is more suitable for ministers without us having to do the adaptations. So we’ll see what comes of that.
Guthrie: Oh, that’s exciting. We’re here to talk about the book of Hosea today. So when I contacted you a while ago and just said, “I’d like to do another Help Me Teach the Bible interview with you,” and we talked about what books we might talk about, you picked Hosea. So, why? Why do you have an interest in Hosea?
Murray: I love the book of Hosea. I feel it’s just so gospel full and gospel rich. It presents such a grim picture of our sinfulness. But it presents such a glorious picture of God’s love and God’s grace, his sovereign grace and sovereign love. It’s a very moving story. You know, the Hosea Gomer story that is then applied to the God is real, Christ and his people relationship. And I found it beneficial for my own soul, I found it much appreciated when I’ve preached on it. And I think it’s a message that’s just so full of encouragement for Christians who have backslidden or have grown cold or have lost their first love. And that’s just, I don’t know if there’s another book in the Bible that’s just so suited to the Christian who has wandered. Not necessarily into terrible sin, but just wandered. We all wander by default. And I think we need this message constantly.
Guthrie: A message that I’ve done, it’s on the first three chapters of Hosea, may be my most favorite message I’ve ever given, right here.
Murray: Right here, okay. Great.
Guthrie: Because as you said, I mean, what an incredible picture of the heart of God toward sinners, that is fulfilled in the person and work, especially the work on the cross of Jesus. And we’ll talk more about that, but I guess if I’m honest, the rest of the book when you get into 4 through 14, you know, I read through the whole book this morning and I had that same impression, you know, it’s so full of promises of judgment, and so repetitive in that sense. I found myself thinking, “Wow, I’m not sure I’d want to teach the book if I was really giving proper attention to chapters 4 through 14.” Part of my fear would be that I would be saying the same thing over and over again.
Guthrie: So convince me I’m wrong.
Murray: It is much harder to preach the second part of the book, the greater part of the book, than the first part, chapters 1, 2, 3, are easy, yes, but not without difficulty. But the other chapters are more difficult. You know, together with Jeremiah, it’s really the Old Testament book that is the hardest to identify a clear structure in, outside of that chapters 1, 2, 3 and the rest of the chapters. And it’s especially the chapters 4 to 14 that are, yeah, very cyclical, very repetitive. I think that as a way of identifying general emphases. But not clear, this is this and that is that and then this is the next thing. And so I would say the best way to teach it if I was teaching this on a Sunday school or doing a series on it in church, it’s not so much a consecutive exposure to do. And way of approaching it a bit more thematic. And you know, for example, if you go into chapter 4 to 14, it’s really the first 3 chapters are faithful Hosea, and his faithless wife, and then chapters 4 to 14, faithful God, and his faithless people. And the first, you know, chapters 4, and 5 are really about the lack of the knowledge of God and a call to repentance, then chapter 6-11, a lack of mercy or a lack of kindness, followed by a call to repent. And then the last part, a lack of truth or a lack of faithfulness, and a call to repent.
So it’s a cycle of covenant breaking, covenant discipline, but always covenant renewal. And like many of the prophets, yeah, actually, if you were to count the verses of judgment compared to mercy, the verses of judgment are predominant, but I think that’s what makes the messages of mercy even more welcome even, more refreshing, even more surprising and amazing to us. I think another thing is just there are so many amazing images and these…
Guthrie: Yeah, let’s talk about some of those.
Murray: Yeah, I mean, the obvious one, which we can come back to but, you know, if you go through, you see so much that’s revealed in picture fashion and images and just trying to pick out a couple here. You’ve got God is a jealous husband, obviously. A frustrated Shepherd, 4:16, a destructive moth, 5:12, a ferocious lion, 5:14, a trapper, 7:12. And that’s all you know judgment images, but there’s also a lot of merciful images, forgiving husband, chapter 3, a healing physician 6:1-2, reviving rains, 6:3, a loving parent, chapter 11:3-4, a protecting lion, 11:10-11, a life giving dew or dew as you would say, 14:5, a fertile tree, 14:8. And then you get Israel an unfaithful wife, a rapidly disappearing morning mist, chapter 6, a hot oven, chapter 7, a silly dove, chapter 7, a faulty bull, a wild donkey. So I always think like, thank you Lord when I see an image because it’s just like, you can unpack that all day long. So you know, I think thematic approach, a graphic or an image-based approach and stepping back seeing the big cycles of disobedience, chastisement, renewal, and just always asking, what does this reveal about God and his salvation.
Guthrie: Let’s talk about a couple of other challenges about the book, because we’ve kind of identified one in that it is so much about judgments. And it can sound in many ways, like that’s the dominant note. And yet, as you’re showing us, even through some of those images, there will be promises of hope. In fact, I love what you did on your website, where you listed 30 I wills…
Murray: I know.
Guthrie: …from Hosea?
Guthrie: And what struck me when I saw that, you know, I’d read, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve read through the whole book this morning. And I think I missed most of those. I guess it’s so easy you just feeling the weight of judgment, you can miss all of these incredible promises that God is saying over and over again, what he’s going to do for his people.
Murray: You know, that’s actually one of the reasons, again, why I love this book so much. I think once you get that key of the I will’s, that’s just the sovereign grace of God. You know, right from the beginning chapter one, to the very end, you know, and you think of these last promises, “I will make you dwell in tabernacles, I will be your king, I will ransom you from the pain of grief or death, I will be your plague, I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely. I will be as a Jew to Israel.” The unilateral grace of God, they are the one sided grace of God. That really, you know, the judgment is the foil that reflects, you know, that really shines light on these I will’s and make them make them just glow all the more fiercely and brightly.
Guthrie: When I read through that list, I mean, it moved me emotionally. And it did shift me in that thought of “Oh, boy, I don’t think I’d want to teach all this judgment.” Because I could see in your list of 30 I wills, the joy of getting to stand up in front of a group of people and say, “This is what God is promising to do. And he’s not promising to do this because you deserve it. I mean, he’s promising to do this in spite of your rampant unfaithfulness.” And yet he says, “This is what I’m going to do for you and in you and through you.” I mean, it’s really an incredible list.
Murray: I know and you get such amazing ways God has presented chapter 11. “How can I give you up, o Ephraim? How can I hand you, o Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboyim? My heart recoils within me? My compassion grows warm and tender.” And you know, some of the other versions have that even more graphically, if I can remember the old King James version that says, “My heart is turned within me.” And it’s almost, you know, God just bent double with the agony of his people’s sins and yet I cannot give you up. It’s just so remarkable that God would allow, you know, if you, and I thought that up, Nancy, we’d be called heretics. And but no, God is thoughtless. God says, “I want you to think of me like this.” Like my stomach is churning as it were, with the agony of this and just how hard it is for me to see you like this. And therefore, I will bring you back.”
Guthrie: We were talking about the images he uses, and very dominant in the images you talked about the faithful husband with the unfaithful wife, but there’s also that parent and child in imagery that is so strong. And as you talk about that heart twisting inside anyone that we’re talking to who’s a parent. If you have struggled over the direction that your child’s life is taking and then you read Hosea, and you hear God as a nurturing parent, both threatening judgment because he can’t ignore the wrong, and yet he is twisted up inside because he loves the child. And so it’s an incredible image for his relationship with Israel, not only as husband and wife but also parent child.
Murray: Yep, that’s right. Yeah, both of these most intense intimate human relationships, husband-wife, father-child, or parent-child, they’re just threaded through this book in ways that you just can’t miss. And it really raises that question, I would be interested to know your own thoughts on it, Nancy? Well, you know, there’s this debate over was Hosea’s marriage real or not? You know, how could God instruct his Holy Prophet to marry a wife of whoredom as it’s put in some versions or a harlot, but what do you think? Any thoughts on this?
Guthrie: I think yes, I mean, I think we’re trying to make every character in the Bible a moral, you know, a moralistic example, if we think that this is not real, here’s how I think about it. If you ever watch a movie, and you see something happen in the movie, and you really relate to a character, and that character does something that you think, “Oh, my goodness, that’s me. I do that.” And you see how, you know, you just see it through another lens somehow and you see somebody else do it and that character on the screen. And in a sense, I think that’s what God is calling Hosea to do when he calls him to take a wife of whoredom. Because the whole intention is that it would set before the people of Israel something outside of themselves that they can look at, and see themselves in and that somehow that would shake them from their complacency. So that they would see how well they are loved by their holy heavenly bridegroom, God himself, and see the destructive, foolish nature of the rampant idolatrous unfaithfulness toward such a loving husband that they have in God Himself. And I think nothing less than Hosea really living this out could have had that impact, which, to me, clearly God is wanting to have on his people.
Murray: Yeah, I agree with you, Nancy. I remember when I was converted, I tried to read through the Bible a couple of times. And that was just how I read this if I ever got to Hosea, in my reading, and then I eventually went into ministry, I went to seminary, to prepare for ministry and started hearing all these different theories that this was just a vision that Hosea was given or it wasn’t real harlotry, it was spiritual harlotry, or she wasn’t a harlot at the time he married but later. I was like, “What?” I was like, let’s just read the text.
Murray: And try and not be, you know, more sensitive than God is. And I think every other explanation just weakens the power of this. I think it’s showing God was both disgusted with his people, but couldn’t stop loving his people. And to me it requires the real he married a prostitute with full knowledge. That I think is the only way that does fuel justice to that.
Guthrie: Maybe we like to water this down because, you know, when we look at this story, I think, as can be so typical, we want to put ourselves in Hosea’s place. And so we’re offended by the story because we think to ourselves, how could God ask his prophet, someone he loves, to do that? And we’re, like, offended on Hosea’s part. But the thing is, when we look at the story, we’re not supposed to be putting ourselves in the place of Hosea.
Murray: No, right.
Guthrie: We’re supposed to be seeing ourselves in the place of Gomer. And I gotta tell you, when I have taught this, and I have a lot of times, you know, to groups of women, I have to kind of lead into it saying, it’s uncomfortable for me to tell you this and maybe you don’t wanna see this, but maybe God wants you to see yourself more clearly today, just like he wanted the people of Israel to see themselves more clearly. He wants you to look in the mirror and see things that you have excused as little dalliances, as maybe little guilty pleasures of things that don’t really matter much but that God himself looks at and says, “No, that’s spiritual adultery.” And that that’s chasing after another god. That’s not just a hobby or an interest. And so maybe God is setting this book of Hosea before you so that you will see yourself in the place of Gomer and see your own heart and its unfaithfulness.
Murray: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, if anyone’s not encouraged by a message like this, yeah, you gotta wonder, do you know who you are really before God? Have you really seen yourself as God sees you? And yeah, well, it does humble as it lifts up God as high as you possibly can, and it’s just so predictive, isn’t it, of Jesus himself for all of these. Each of these prophets contribute something to our understanding of who Jesus is. They’re all very different characters. But Jesus combined every single prophet in his own person, including this prophet, whose name actually means salvation, and his message was “Come home unfaithful Israel.” The friend of tax collectors and sinners, the friend of Immortal men and women. This is our God and Savior Hosea just gives us, it’s just like a turn of the diamond and perhaps shows us the brightest side of all.
Guthrie: So we talked about how Gomer helps us to see ourselves, maybe we can help Bible teachers with some of the specific ways, especially in Hosea 1-3, how Hosea helps us to see the more perfect bridegroom and the more perfect husband, Jesus himself.
Murray: You’ve got Hosea there and Gomer and you also have their children, each of which has given a very significant name, each of which contains really a gospel message as well and really helps us to see the glory of the gospel. You’ve got Jezreel, 1:4, God scatters. And it’s really a play in the name of Israel, the prince of God, so here God’s saying the prince of God will become Jezreel. There’s gonna be a great slaughter, Israel is gonna be scattered. You’ve got Lo-ruhamah, she has now obtained mercy, God disowning Israel bringing the northern kingdom to an end. Lo-ammi, not my people, really the climax of Israel’s doom. And yet, the children’s names are reversed.
Murray: And in the very same chapter.
Guthrie: I think when we’re teaching it, we have to let the names sit for a minute before we announce the reversal. Don’t you think?
Murray: Yeah, I know.
Guthrie: Of course, it’s hard. I think it’s hard for us as modern people to understand what it would have been like to say to the people of Israel, who they define themselves by their connection to Yahweh and yet by these children’s names, basically God is saying to them, “You are not my people.” And that would have been horrifying to them.
Murray: Yep, yep. I mean, the basically the names are no prints with God, no mercy and no people. And then yeah, like that’s set.
Murray: But God says, I will make you a prince again. I will show mercy again. You will be my people again. And I think it really, you know, when a person comes to faith in Christ, they go through this cycle, don’t they? They see they’re not as big. They’re not as important. They’re not as good. They’re not as royal as they thought they were. They see that, you know, they don’t have mercy. They’re hopeless. They see they’re not God’s people. And only God can reverse this and he only can reverse it through Christ.
Murray: Who is the prince and who is the Merciful One, and who is the Son of God, and through Him, we can become princes, we can obtain mercy and we can become His people again. And you know, so just in even this chapter 1 through chapter 2, you’ve got just incredible gospel-rich verses that point us towards Christ. And that’s just the children. You know, then you’ve got that relationship between Hosea and Gomer, you know, where she has been so unfaithful. And yet he promises Israel in chapter 2 a new courtship, a new response, a new covenant, a new marriage, a new prosperity, a new privilege, and ultimately concludes with, you know, “I will betroth you to me in faithfulness and you shall know the Lord.” And of course, that just could not really ultimately happen without Christ Himself making that possible.
Guthrie: Yeah. This is so rich with gospel opportunities, jumping back briefly to the “not my people” and “no mercy.” When I’ve taught this, I think there’s a couple of favorite moments to get to declare the goodness of the gospel to me. But to be able to look around a room and say, in my case, to women, maybe you or someone in your world has written across your life, no mercy, not my people. Can you see that Jesus in the red letters of his own blood has written across your life, “I will have mercy. You are mine. You are beloved, forgiven, cherished?” That’s just a moment that I love when I get to teach the book of Hosea. And the other thing I love is to look through chapter 2. To me, it’s almost like Hosea and God are singing or speaking in unison together about their unfaithful brides, because it seems to kind of be about both or go back and forth somehow. And it’s all of these judgments that are going to come upon Israel. And as you look through them, it begins to jump out at you that Jesus will experience the specific judgment. I’m thinking 2:3, “Lest I strip her naked.” Well, he was stripped naked. “Make her like a parched land and kill her with thirst.” And we see Jesus saying, “I am thirsty.” I will have no mercy and think about Jesus being on the cross. And it’s Jesus is the one who experienced no mercy, so that you and I can experience abundance mercy, just incredible gospel opportunities there.
Murray: What people don’t realize how much Hosea is referred to in the New Testament, you know, obviously, you’ve got Paul’s description of the church as Christ’s bride in Ephesians 5, and then also Revelation 19. And you’ve got the change and the children’s names fulfilled in Romans 9. Saying basically, this is a prediction also of God’s making the Gentiles who are not his people into his people, into the children of the living God. You’ve got Hosea paints three pictures of the coming Messiah, as the second Moses in 1:11, the second David, Hosea 3:5, and the second Israel in Hosea 11:1. And then you’ve also got the, you know, these really well known words “O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? 1 Corinthians 15, and that is actually the quotation of Hosea 13:14 and which says, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave. I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be your plagues. O grave, I will be your destruction.” And you’ve also got Jesus, you know, refers to it in Matthew 9:15. When he says, go and learn what that means, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice.”
So Jesus knew the book of Hosea and, you know, you can imagine how that must have ministered to him and motivated him and helped him to understand his own mission and encourage him in and fulfill this whole book. And being the faithful bridegroom to this unfaithful people.
Guthrie: Yeah, all those quotes you’ve mentioned, some of which like that “Death, where is your sting,” I hadn’t noticed that that was from Hosea till I read through it this morning. The more common one we always think about being a quote from Hosea is 11:1, in which we read in the Gospel of Matthew, that it’s saying that Jesus fulfilled the words out of Egypt, “I have called my son.” And that’s very perplexing to lots of people like, and it could be perplexing to us. But if you study just even okay, what are the quotations of Hosea that are used in the New Testament, and spent some time on that. It would be a lesson in itself in terms of how to interpret the Old Testament. Hosea specifically, but even broader than that, because of the way Jesus and these other biblical writers use the book of Hosea.
Murray: Yeah, and I think that’s where we often go wrong. We come to these fulfillments with our own logic and our own methodology and say, “Oh, Jesus got this wrong or the apostle got this wrong.”
Guthrie: Which is so arrogant.
Murray: I know, but you read lots of commentaries on Matthew and Hosea and that’s where you read, or again just attempts to explain things away. But exactly what you said, we come to them say, “Okay, teach me how to have a biblical hermeneutic. Teach me how to execute those.” And that Matthew quotation of Hosea is probably the most problematic quotation of the Old Testament and the New, but it’s not insoluble if, as you said there, if you look in general how the New Testament views the fulfillment of prophecy, it’s not always the case that it’s, you know, the exact same details. Sometimes a verse is quoted by a New Testament author as a fulfillment of the Old Testament, but it’s not referring to that exact verse on its own, but to a context. It’s a sort of a peg that points to a larger text, you know, rather than quoting the whole chapter. That was a common Jewish way of referencing scripture. And I think for myself, when I look at that challenging part, I see it as what I call is an illogical fulfillment or fulfillment by way of analogy. It’s basically seeing that Hosea used Old Testament history to highlight God’s goodness to his national son, Israel. So that’s what Hosea is doing there in Hosea 11, he’s saying, “Look, you know, God has called Israel out of Egypt before showing God’s protection and provision of his son, Israel, through an Egyptian sojourn supervised by a divinely saint Joseph.” And then Matthew looks at this and says, “You know, that’s a paradigm. That’s an analogy. That’s a prophetic parallel that predicts God’s goodness to his only begotten Son, Jesus, Israel, in protecting and providing for them through an Egyptian soldier and supervised by a divinely saint Joseph. So, Matthew is not presenting Christ here as one who fulfilled a very distinct and specific prediction, but rather as one who repeated, who recapitulated, who summed up, who epitomized and so fulfilled specific events in Israel’s history. So Hosea’s sort of looking back at Exodus and saying here’s how God works, and Matthew’s looking back at Hosea and Exodus and saying, “Yeah, that’s how God works,” and he does the ultimate way that that is shown in Christ.
Guthrie: Beautiful. Well, let’s spend a little bit on Hosea 3, it’s got to be the shortest chapter in this book. And yet to me it is just such the heart of the book, especially in terms of Hosea being a picture of the greater bridegroom to come. So many aspects of it point to the person and work of Christ. Let me just read it. “And the Lord said to me,” and he’s speaking to Hosea, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulterous, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” And then verse 2 is the one that really gets me. Because Hosea testifies, “So I bought her for 15 shekels of silver and a homer and lethech of barley. And I said to her, you must dwell as mine for many days, and you shall not play the whore or belong to another man and so also will I be to you.” Wow. First of all, that God isn’t saying just like, “Go get that woman, go love a woman.” There’s that heart of God on display.
Murray: Yeah, and just willingness to be associated with someone of such ill repute, someone who would bring scandal upon him, and a willingness to be thought less off and even to be thought of as unclean himself and dirty and not worthy of involvement in civil society. And really, that is our God, he’s willing to be thought of like that, as Jesus Himself should when he came to this world and he was denigrated, and he did lose his reputation, and yet willing, not just forced willing but happy willing, eager willing, enthusiastic willing to be contaminated by these associations. Not essentially, not that he ever became unholy, but just in the way he was regarded.
Guthrie: She belongs to him already, that is the stunning thing. But then, “So I bought her.” And, you know, when you read this, 15 shekels of silver and a Homer and a lethech of barley. I mean, here’s the Prophet, he doesn’t have a lot of money, but he’s gonna scrape up whatever he can to buy her back. And of course, it is such a picture of what our greater bridegroom, he will buy us back. “You are bought with a price,” Paul writes.
Murray: To be with him, to dwell with him for many days.
Guthrie: Yes, to dwell with him. And there’s this beautiful picture, I think, in that third verse of the process of sanctification. I mean, we read in the New Testament about being washed with the water of the word and being set apart to him. And that is a sense of what’s happening here when he says, “You must dwell as mine. For many days you shall not play the whore or belong to another man and so also I will be to you.” It’s a picture not just of salvation but of sanctification. It’s beautiful, you know, and sometimes when I’ve taught this, I don’t know if this would have worked for men, but it does for women, just because I set up this scenario of imagining Hosea’s sister at this point in the story.
Guthrie: Because, you know, she’s been staying over with Hosea helping take care of these kids, while Gomer is off running around with all of these other lovers and that she’s there, she hears Hosea crying during the night because he’s run off into Gomer with one of her latest lovers and while he’s home changing diapers and putting food on the table, and so then Hosea hears God tell him, “Go again, love a woman even though she’s loved by another man,” and he says to his sister, “I’ve got 15 shekels and I’m going to gather up some homer and a lethech of barley and I’m gonna go down there to the slave market, and I’m gonna go buy her back.” And I just imagined his sister just looking at him and going, “You have got to be kidding.”
Murray: Yeah. You’re mad.
Guthrie: That’s crazy, that doesn’t make any sense. You know, you’ve been hurt so deeply. She has wronged you. She doesn’t deserve it. And when you think of it on those common sense terms, what we would say if we had been the sister, and think about yes, but this is the measure of God’s love for us and his willingness to go after us. It’s incredible.
Murray: Yeah, and I think that that’s a beautiful way to present, I think that will preach to men just fine.
Murray: And you know, I think that’s what this book is ultimately meant to provoke in us in a sense, you know, that’s mad, but that’s God.
Murray: And I don’t mean that in any derogatory or the reverent way. It’s, you know, in the eyes of the word of grace to such guilt as madness. It’s just not the way the world works. It’s just not the way we work. It’s not the way we deal with other people or even in our own families at times. But this is how God works. And we’ve not really captured grace until we come to that point where we say, “That’s crazy. Like this doesn’t make any sense.” But it does in God’s mind, because it matches his character.
Guthrie: Our time is gone quickly, David, are there one or two other tools you might like to place in our hands for dealing with some of the challenges of teaching Hosea before we bring this to a close?
Murray: I’ve got chapter in Jesus on Every Page called Christ Prophet, and basically, I think it’s a three-step process for basically getting to the message of chapters and the prophets. So that may be a useful tool and that one of the emphasis I have is really focusing on the original message so that we don’t just skip to the fulfillment is very important. And I think we often, especially with common prophecies, we skip over it. But we miss the power of the fulfillment if we do so.
Guthrie: Well, can I stop you and ask you something there? Because I do think that is a huge challenge, because the typical Bible teacher, you’re reading all of these judgments. And so is it simply every time you say mercy triumphs over judgment, or Jesus took this judgment upon himself? It can seem like you’re almost sweeping that under the rug when there’s so much about judgment. Because was it a genuine threat, was it not, I mean, to the original hearers?
Murray: I mean, there are threats in the New Testament as well. There are more, you know, the chastisements in the New Testament are usually more spiritual. They’re more internal. They’re made more vivid and visible in the Old Testament because it was upon a nation rather than an individual usually. And so I think we have to take seriously, you know, God calls us to covenant obedience, which has promises of blessing when we obey, and threats of judgment or chastisement, if you wanna call it more accurately, if we disobey. And I do think we miss a dimension of covenantal living, of living in relationship with God, when we downplay the ethical requirements and the consequences, both for good and evil, when we disobey. But you know, always on both fronts, whether it’s blessings and obedience, threats of judgment and disministry of love, it’s because he wants to keep that relationship healthy and happy and holy. And it doesn’t affect the bond. We can never break the bond. But if we wanna enjoy the bond and enjoy the relationship and thrive in it, then I think we’ve got to take these judgments seriously. And I think you see that even in the last book of the Bible, in the message to the churches, there were judgments, there were chastisements that were threatened upon their unfaithfulness to bring them back to him.
Guthrie: Yeah, they’re purposeful threats. They’re not empty threats.
Murray: No, no, they’re not, they’re not. So yeah, we want to see fulfillment in Christ and in the Gospel, and yet we also have to take them very seriously. So yeah, the original, the fulfillment. And then really, I suppose the application because, you know, prophecies often are not just fulfilled in the New Testament. There’s, I often talk of the three C’s, there’s commencement, continuation, and consummation. So, you know, if you take basically the message of Hosea, that special marital relationship really commenced in its fullest sense with Christ coming. It continues, as he brings more and more people into relationship with Him through the centuries and brings us into closer relationship with Him. But it’s not gonna be consummated until he comes again. And then we will know his faithful love to those who are completely unfaithful in a very special and unimaginable way. So I think, yeah, just that chapter in “Jesus on Every Page” I think could give a good grade, a good method for…
Guthrie: I love that, commence…
Murray: Commencement, continuation and consummation. Yeah, I’m sure that’s not original to me, nothing about it is but…
Guthrie: But you’re always good at coming up with ways to remember it, and those three C’s, that’s helpful.
Murray: Three C’s, yep.
Guthrie: Okay, well, let’s go this way, David. Let’s say we’ve done the work and we’ve figured out how we were gonna break up Hosea, to teach it and we’ve done our best to get to that message of the original hearers faithfully before we then go through the person and work of Christ for the application for our viewers. What do we hope the impact of having spent however many weeks we spend in Hosea, what do we hope the impact is on those we’ve taught?
Murray: Renewal. To renew faithfulness to God, and it’s a call to enjoy God’s love and intimacy with God along a path of obedience and faithfulness. It’s a call to worship a God of unparalleled and unimaginable and indescribable grace. It’s a call to mimic that God is well in our dealings with others. You know, if you were to ask people outside of the church, what is God like? I think most people would say he’s like the Pharisees. Whereas what we want people to see is he’s like Hosea, he’s this incredible God of the guilty. And I think if there’s any challenge facing us today, it’s to try and get that message outside of the church’s walls into our society. Because as long as people think of God as a fallacy, as a holier than thou, detached, looking down on, just condemning, criticizing and judging, there’s no pull, there’s no attraction, there’s no desire. But if we can show people the God of the Hosea, the God of Gomer actually, then I think we begin to break down barriers and begin to give people hope that this Lord could be my God.
Guthrie: That’s beautiful, David. Thank you.
Guthrie: And thank you for being willing to give me this time to help us teach the Bible.
Murray: Well, thank you, Nancy, for all you do to get people into the scriptures, especially the Old Testament. I think we have that mutual love for the Old Testament and it’s great to have a fellow laborer who’s mining away these tough books to produce gold for God’s people.
Guthrie: Thank you, David. You’ve been listening to “Help Me Teach the Bible,” with Nancy Guthrie, a production of the gospel coalition, sponsored by Crossway. Crossway is a not for profit publisher of the ESV Bible Christian books and tracks, including several new books coming out by our guest today, Dr. David Murray. So look in the spring of 2020 for the Family Worship Guide, and also “Meeting With Jesus,” a Bible reading plan for kids. Learn more about Crossway’s gospel-centered resources at crossway.org.