Hosea depicts Israel’s unfaithfulness with a number of images from family and nature. Israel is like: a promiscuous wife, an indifferent mother, an illegitimate child, an ungrateful son, a stubborn heifer, a silly dove, a luxuriant vine and grapes in the wilderness. Hosea’s major concern was the worship of Baal—an apostasy that he understood to be the reason for Israel’s dilemma. Baal was the weather-god worshiped in Syria-Palestine, who had control over agriculture and fertility, rainfall and productivity. Since ancient Israel was always an agricultural society, Baal worship was of unrivaled importance.
However, Baal religion’s major appeal to human sexuality, drunkenness, bestiality, human sacrifice, mutilations, and incest are clearly discerned in the book. Hosea understood the strength of Baalism’s appeal to the sex drive by way of ritual prostitution. This amounted to sexual intimacy at one of the pagan shrines. Sexual behavior at these shrines was expected to cause the Baals to respond in like manner—to follow the worshipers by producing for them fertile seed and rain for a good crop. This intimacy took place with cult prostitutes. It is likely that Gomer, Hosea’s wife was one of these sacred prostitutes. When a worshiper selected a prostitute, he prayed, “I beseech the goddess of Astarte to favor you and Baal to favor me.” There was also eating and drinking at shrines as an act of worship.
Hosea’s approach was to drive home the point that Israel as the people of God were to be joined to the Lord. Hosea makes a number of references to Israel’s past to remind them of that. Israel, like the church was to be the Lord’s bride, but Israel has instead become joined to the Baals. Worship of Baal is not just a violation of the first of the Ten Commandments but a betrayal of that intimate and endearing union that God made with his people. Idolatry, therefore, is depicted as spiritual adultery, transgression against the marriage between the Lord and Israel.
With the sexual revolution is full swing. Many of our culture’s beliefs concerning sexual relationships have come full bore into the church. More and more people are showing up in churches all across America who are living out of wedlock with their partners (notice I did not say husbands or wives given the nature of the homosexual movement) and who see absolutely nothing wrong with their choices. How archaic does Paul sound? How has the following truth been abrogated in our churches today?
 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.  And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.  Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!  Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”  But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.  Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,  for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:13-20 ESV)
There is so much more to this little book that is rich with repeated judgment warnings, but even greater is the powerful description of God’s broken heart and unending love for His people. You can join me in my verse by verse exposition of this passion-packed story by accessing my current preaching at In His Grip on Lightsource.com. http://www.lightsource.com/ministry/in-his-grip/it-was-the-best-of-times-it-was-the-worst-of-times-404391.html
In His Grip,
Digging Deeper: 1 Corinthians 6:13 - 20
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