Hosea – (Prophecies that the ten lost tribes of Israel will be restored)
The book of Hosea begins with God telling Hosea to go out and marry a prostitute. “Go take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the Lord.” (Hosea 1:2b) The date was approximately 750B.C. and even though the northern kingdom of Israel enjoyed prosperity and lived in peace, they had a big problem. They had been living in open rebellion against God for a very long time.
Hosea was Gods’ prophet and messenger to the ten northern tribes of Israel. His name, “Hosea” meant “salvation”. He was to live out Gods’ message by marrying an unfaithful woman, to portray God’s relationship to an unfaithful Israel. Hosea obeyed God and went out and married Gomer, a prostitute.
Gomer and Hosea had three children and God named each child. God continued speaking to Israel through Hosea’s children’s names. The first child was a boy and God named him, “Jezreel” which meant that God will “bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel” (Hosea 1:4b) The second child, a girl, was named “Lo-Ruhamah” which meant “I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel”. (Hosea 1:6b) And the third child, another boy, was named “Lo Ammi” which meant, “”You are not My people and I am not your God.” (Hosea 1:9a)
God’s charges against Israel are many. “By swearing and lying, killing and stealing, and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed. (Hosea 4:2) “ ‘She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, and went after her lovers: But me she forgot,’ says the Lord.” (Hosea 2:13b) “Though I redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against Me.” (Hosea 7:13b) And, “None among them calls upon Me.” “Though I disciplined and strengthened their arms, yet they devise evil against Me: they return but not to the Most High: they are like a treacherous bow,…” (Hosea 7:7b and 7:15 -16a) “…For you have played the harlot against your God. You have made love for hire on every threshing floor….”(Hosea 9:1a)
God calls the ten tribes of Israel back to Himself through Hosea and warns them that He will put them away if they continue being unfaithful to Him. Hosea proclaims God’s warnings: “Israel is swallowed up. Now they are among the Gentiles, like a vessel in which is no pleasure.” (Hosea 8:7b) “My God will cast them away, because they did not obey Him: and they shall be wanderers among the nations.” (Hosea 9:17) “but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to repent.” (Hosea 11:5B)
Even though God continued calling out to His wayward children, history records that the peoples of the northern kingdom of Israel refused to listen. A day of reckoning finally arrived. The Assyrians attacked the ten tribes of Israel and carried many away into exile in 733B.C. And then they made a final raid in 720B.C. and took the rest off into slavery. Their punishment had finally come. Their national identity was no more. The twelve tribes of Israel no longer lived together in their Promised Land. Only the two tribes of the southern kingdom of Judah remained. God’s dire warnings had finally come upon the northern kingdom. His patience had come to an end. “I will hedge up her way with thorns. And wall her in. So that she cannot find her paths. She will chase her lovers. But not overtake them: Yes she will seek them but not find them.” (Hosea 2:6)
After Hosea had been married to Gomer for awhile, Scripture seems to imply that she went back to her old lifestyle of sexual sin. God came to Hosea and spoke once more. “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.” (Hosea 3:1)
Hosea writes about how he dealt with his unfaithful wife: “So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley. And I said to her, ‘You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man-so too will I be toward you.’ For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice of sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim.” (Hosea 3:3-4) .
Just as Hosea was to love his unfaithful wife and take her back after she had a cooling off time spent alone without any lovers, so God was giving a picture lesson of His relationship with the northern tribes of Israel. He still loved His unfaithful wife, Israel and He will buy her back, like Hosea did his unfaithful wife. But first Israel will spend time among the nations, alone without her temple and unable to make her religious sacrifices.
It has been more than 2,700 years since the ten northern tribes of Israel were taken away by the Assyrians as Hosea had warned. They have been scattered and have wandered with no homeland for millenniums. God must have forgotten them. I once asked a Jewish rabbi what had happened to the ten tribes, and he assured me that they were no more. Naturally these tribes from antiquity must have intermarried and assimilated into the countries of their captors. Surely after 2,700 years, ancient Israel has been lost forever.
But Gods’ message throughout Scripture is that He will bring the northern tribes of Israel back. Like Hosea did, God will re-claim His wife after a waiting period. “”And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people.’ There is shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God.’ Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together,…” (Hosea 1:10b) and “They shall walk after the Lord. He will roar like a lion. When He roars, then His sons shall come trembling from the west: They shall come trembling like a bird from Egypt. Like a dove from the land of Assyria. And I will let them dwell in their houses, says the Lord.” (Hosea 11:10-11)
“I will heal their backsliding. I will love them freely …I will be like the dew to Israel, He shall grow like the lily, Ephraim (Israel) shall say, What have I to do anymore with idols? I have heard and observed him, I am like a green cypress tree: Your fruit is found in Me.” Who is wise? Let him understand these things. …For the ways of the Lord are right: The righteous walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.” (Hosea 14:4a,5,8,9)
God also spoke to the prophet Ezekiel regarding the ten tribes of Israel and the two of Judah and how they would all be reunited. They have been apart for over 2,700 years now, but God promises that that will change. “As for you son of man take a stick for yourself and write on it: ‘For Judah and for the children of Israel his companions:’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim (Israel), and for the house of Israel, his companions. Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand.” (Ezekiel 37:16-17)
There it is. Scripture clearly says it. God has not given up on the ten dispersed tribes of ancient Israel. He will yet bring them back to join the remaining two tribes of Judah. But if that is true, why has it taken so long? Isn’t there a time to finally give up? How can we believe what seems so impossible?
We can believe God’s promises because things that appear impossible to us are not impossible with God. And we can trust God to hear our prayers even if we don’t live to see them answered, because God’s timing is not our timing. Do we have big problems that we’ve prayed about for years but nothing ever seems to change? Do we have a lost dream out there, or a lost child? Have we waited so long that we are about to give up hope?
God will keep His promise. He will restore the lost tribes, even after 2,700 years or longer. He will answer our prayers too through Jesus Christ our Lord, even if it takes longer than we think it should.
When God finished giving Hosea the promise concerning the ten tribes being restored, He followed up with these words: “For the ways of the Lord are right. The righteous walk in them.” (Hosea 14:9b) God seems to be telling Hosea here to trust Him even though it may not make sense. And these words are for us too. God is telling us to walk in His promises and to believe them even when we can’t understand how they will work out. And God is reminding us that He is in control, even when our problems seem impossible and our prayers don’t seem to be answered. God’s mysterious ways are right. Let’s learn to walk in them. Let’s trust Him no matter what!