The Law of Sowing and Reaping
Galatians 6:7 warns, "Be not deceive; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." This is a spiritual law, as constant as the Law of Gravity. It is inescapable. Neither individuals nor nations can escape the consequences of their actions. We reap what we sow.
- We reap the fruit of what we sow
- We reap more than what we sow
- We reap in a different season than we sow
- We reap in proportion to what we have sown
Israel had been playing fast and loose with the laws of God. As Hosea would later remark, the nation had "sown the wind." Now she was to "reap the whirlwind." She had prostituted herself to the false gods of the pagan nations. She had abandoned God, now God was preparing to abandon her.
Hosea was assigned the heartbreaking task of preparing his nation for judgment. But Hosea was not called to only preach a message. He was also instructed to portray his message. His home life was to mirror Israel’s unfaithful relationship to God.
It would be good at this point to say something of Hosea’s prophetic office and to examine the general principles that guide the interpretation of the prophetic literature in the Bible. The Old Testament prophet was a preacher. He often foretold of coming events, but his ministry was not restricted to making predictions.
- He expressed God’s will.
- He exposed the sins of the people to whom He was sent.
- He exhorted the faithful to remain faithful and the disobedient to turn from their sins and return to God.
In the course of his ministry, the prophet did make predictions. He announced future judgments. He predicted the rise and fall of nations. He revealed details pertaining to the life and ministry of Messiah. In studying these portions of the prophets’ message, we need to be guided by the following principles:
- The passage is to be interpreted literally, in that the predicted event will occur precisely as predicted.
- Although the passage is interpreted literally, it is understood that the prophets often used figurative language.
- They used symbols and spoke in word pictures common to their day to describe future events.
- They used figures of speech and often included elements of poetry.
- The historical context, references to geographic locations, and the meaning of proper names must be considered in order to arrive at a proper interpretation.
In the study of this passage, each of these principles is demonstrated. It is rich in symbolism and figurative language. God Himself calls attention to names, places, and historical events. It is a great portion of Scripture for learning how to study the prophetic literature of the Bible.
I. The Prophet’s Children (Verse 2, ff)
- Their illegitimacy
- Hosea was informed that not only would his wife be unfaithful, but that at least some of his children would be born of her unfaithfulness. They are called "children of whoredoms."
- Hosea was apparently the father of only one of his children.
- Verse 3 records that Gomer conceived, and bare HIM a son.
- Verses 6 and 8 only record that Gomer conceived and bore children. The personal pronoun "him" is missing in each of these two instances.
- Also, the names (which will be discussed under the next point) also point to the illegitimacy of Lo-ruhamah and Lo-ammi.
Hosea’s family was a picture of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. Gomer’s adulterous affairs were the spiritual equivalent of Israel’s attitude towards God.
READ Jeremiah 3:6-13; Ezekiel 23:1-7
Israel wanted the best of both worlds. While maintaining an outward devotion to the LORD to secure His blessings, they also served and worshipped idols. With their lips, they professed to be the people of God while giving their affections to idols. In this way, they polluted the land with the spiritual "offspring" of their idolatrous worship.
Like God, Hosea had to bear the shame of this kind of relationship. We can well imagine him pleading with Gomer, as first one, and then another illegitimate child is born, to abandon her adulterous ways and be faithful to him. In so doing, he became a vivid picture to Israel of their own unfaithfulness to God and His great love for them.
- Their importance
- Old Testament names often have specific, divinely inspired meanings.
- God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, which means, "Father of a Multitude."
- Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, which means, "A Prince of God."
- Isaiah had a son named Shear-jashub, which means, "A remnant shall return."
- God instructed Hosea to give his children names that would convey a message to the Northern Kingdom.
- Jezreel means God Scatters, or God Sows, a warning of God’s plan to scatter Israel among the pagan nations as a result of the Assyrian conquest.
- Lo-ruhamah means Without Mercy, or Without Pity, telling Israel that God would judge them without mercy.
- Lo-ammi means Not My People, revealing that God would treat the Jews like any other nation instead of as the apple of His eye.
II. The Punishment of Israel
- The significance of Jezreel – verses 4-5
- The sins of Ahab
- When Ahab ascended to the throne, sin and corruption in Israel hit new lows. READ 1 KINGS 16:30-33.
- Among Ahab’s many sin was that associated with the vineyard of Naboth in Jezreel.
- Naboth refused to sell the vineyard to the King.
- Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, had Naboth falsely accused of blaspheme. Naboth was then stoned, and Ahab took possession of the vineyard.
- This sin, added to all the others indulged in by Ahab, provoked a sever judgment. God promised to wipe out Ahab’s descendants. SEE 1 KINGS 21:17-29
- The selection of Jehu – READ 2 KINGS 9:4-10
- Jehu was anointed to replace Joram, Ahab’s son, as king of Israel and carry out the judgment against Ahab’s house prophesied by Elijah.
- As prophesied, Jehu killed all Ahab’s descendents in Jezreel (2 Kings 10:11).
- He also attempted to purge the land of Baal worship (2 Kings 10:25-28).
- The sin of Jehu
- The Lord commended Jehu for his deeds, but the Bible records that Jehu "took no heed to walk in the Law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart."
- Neither Jehu nor his descendents learned from God’s judgment of Ahab. They continued to support the sinful worship of the golden calves erected by Jeroboam I (2 Kings 10:31) and led their nation in idolatry and corruption.
When Hosea’s first son was born, God told him to call the boy Jezreel. Two reasons are given for this:
- Because the house of Jehu would experience the same degree of judgment as did the house of Ahab. The blood of Jezreel would be "avenged," or visited, upon his house.
- Because the "bow of Israel," her military might, would be completely broken in Jezreel and the Northern Kingdom would go into captivity.
Jeroboam II and the people of the Northern Kingdom heard the preaching of Hosea. They had the opportunity to humble themselves before the Lord, confess and put away their sin, and avoid the judgment of God. But the nation was prospering, and Hosea’s words fell on unresponsive hearts. Consequently, Jeroboam’s posterity was destroyed. The blood of Jezreel was avenged upon his house. 30 years later, Shalmaneser, King of Assyria, invaded Israel for the last time. Israel was defeated, her people carried into captivity, and the land ‘sown" with captives from other nations. READ 2 KINGS 17:3, 20-24
- The severity of judgment – verses 6-9
The severity of God’s judgment is indicated by the names of Hosea’s two illegitimate children, Lo-ruhamah and Lo-ammi. God was warning the nation that when judgment fell, God would execute it without mercy. Judah, the Southern Kingdom, would still receive mercy because she had not sinned after the manner of her sister kingdom, Israel. But the days when Israel could hope to receive the mercy of God were rapidly running out.
God was also warning that soon the nation would be disowned. It would be treated like the pagan nations that were driven out of the land by the invading Israelites. If Israel continued in her sin, she would forfeit her special relationship to God.
God cannot tolerate sin in any people, especially His own. Yes, He is a God of mercy and grace, but He is also a God of holiness and justice. When God’s people continue in sin, He will exercise righteous judgment against their sin. No one can escape the law of sowing and reaping.
III. The Promise of Grace – Verses 10-11
These two verses constitute one of the few rays of hope that pierce that gloomy message of Hosea’s prophecies.
- God’s purpose reaffirmed
Verse 10 takes us all the way back to the days of Abraham, when God promised to make of Abraham a great nation whose people could not be numbered. They would be like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore in abundance.
He was telling Israel that the coming judgment and rejection was only temporary. God was not going to break the covenant He had made with Abraham. This judgment would be for discipline, not destruction. Although He was disowning them then, the day would come when they would be called the sons of the Living God.
- God’s people to be restored
Not only would the nation return to the land and multiply in number, it would also be reunited with the Southern Kingdom to be one nation under one king. This prophecy has yet to be fulfilled. It looks forward to a future day when God will gather His people from all the nations where they have been scattered and the Lord Himself will be their king, Jesus Christ seated upon the throne of David, ruling the world from Jerusalem.
This chapter gives us the "big picture." It sets the themes that will be played repeatedly throughout the book – themes of judgment, ruin, and restoration. Through it all we see the operation of God’s love and grace, especially as it is pictured in the family life of Hosea. We are also reminded that God is not motivated by a sense of retaliation or revenge when he executes judgment against His own. God’s discipline comes from a sincere desire to see His people experience the very best that a relationship to Him has to offer.
The prophets are not always easy to understand, but their study is rewarding. In them we glimpse the ways and character of God. We are also reminded that human history is moving towards a predetermined end. Additionally, we see the folly of indulging sin and ignoring God’s Word. Across these pages we can write the words of Galatians 6:7, "Be not deceive; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."