Hosea, prophet of mercy—Chapter 13: Who are My People?
Dec 02, 2016
Hosea 2:21, 22 says,
21 “And it will come about in that day that I will respond,” declares the Lord. “I will respond to the heavens, and they will respond to the earth, 22 and the earth will respond to the grain, to the new wine, and to the oil, and they will respond to Jezreel.”
The Hebrew word translated “respond” is anah, which means “to answer, bear witness, or respond.” The verses above give a picture of agreement between various witnesses. God responds to the heavens, and they in turn (God and the heavens) respond to the earth. The earth responds to call of the seed to bear fruit, and finally, “they will respond to Jezreel.”
Each is pictured speaking, or testifying, in its own way, bearing witness to another. Because all things are established by two or three witnesses, God is telling us that the Fruitfulness Mandate is finally being fulfilled. This is the significance of the name Jezreel. God scatters seed in order to sow Israel into the field, which is the world, and ultimately He will receive a bountiful crop.
The “call of the seed to bear fruit” is answered by the earth itself. It is as if every seed, which carries the potential for fruit, cries out from the earth. Though it has died, it yet speaks, much like Abel’s blood (Hebrews 11:4). But the seed in itself cannot bear fruit until the earth hears and bears witness to the cry of the seed.
Jezreel, as I have said earlier, not only speaks of seed being scattered and sown, it represents Israel, for Iesreel is a homonym, being pronounced almost like Israel. God had scattered Israel in order to sow her into the earth, with an eye to a future harvest. Divine judgment has purpose, and the outcome is that God receives a bountiful harvest of sons. The purpose of death is to qualify for resurrection. The purpose of resurrection is to bear fruit.
Hosea 2:23 concludes this section, saying,
23 “And I will sow her for Myself in the land [or earth], I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘Thou art my God!’”
Even as the seed of Israel had been scattered (Jezreel), so also the seed would die so that it could bear fruit in a great harvest yet to come. Those who had been called Lo-ruhamah, “not pitied, or not given compassion,” will be called Ruhamah, “pitied, or given compassion.” Those who were called Lo-ammi, “not My people,” will be called Ammi, “My people.”
This is the resolution to the problem of judgment. The judgment is temporary. Death is temporary, in the sense that the seed is restored in its new form, or new body. The Birthright of Joseph (or Ephraim), which was the promise of sonship that seemed to be lost, will be restored, and its promise fulfilled.
The apostle Peter understood Hosea’s prophecies very well, and he gave us his interpretation. In 1 Peter 1:23-25 he defines the seed:
23 for you have been born again [gennao, “begotten”] not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God. 24 For, “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, 25 but the word of the Lord abides forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you.
There are two kinds of seed. Seed that begets flesh is perishable. The word of God, however, is alive, immortal, and imperishable, and we have been begotten by this spiritual seed. This is the manner in which the prophecy of Jezreel is fulfilled. Later, the apostle tells us in 1 Peter 2:9, 10,
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Prior to their conversion to Christ by the spiritual seed of the living word, they had been “not a people” (Lo-ammi). But now, by the begetting of Christ in them, they had become “the people of God” (Ammi).
Prior to their conversion to Christ, they “had not received mercy” (Lo-ruhamah), but now they “have received mercy” (Ruhamah).
In other words, Peter shows us specifically HOW the prophecy in Hosea was to be fulfilled. Hosea prophesied without explanation; Peter explained it. Hosea had no revelation about the two seeds, nor did he live to see the manner of Jesus’ conception and birth through spiritual seed. This revelation was reserved for a later time, and Peter understood this.
The Dispersed Israelites
Peter was writing specifically to ex-Israelites in the dispersion, so he was able to apply this to them in his exhortation to righteousness. In his introduction we read in 1 Peter 1:1, 2,
1 Peter, and apostle of Jesus Christ, to the sojourners of the dispersion, of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 chosen, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father… [The Emphatic Diaglott]
The “dispersion” were those Israelites who had been dispersed by the Assyrians, the subject of Hosea’s prophecy. Peter wrote to some of them whose forefathers had spread west into what is now northern Turkey, south of the Black Sea. Peter apparently had traveled to those areas and had preached the gospel to many of these ex-Israelites. Those who believed the gospel were “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God.” Later, as we read in 1 Peter 2:9, he called them “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (i.e., a peculiar treasure, or segullah).
However, Peter was not applying chosen status to all of those dispersed Israelites, but only to those who had been begotten by the spiritual seed of the word. Most of the dispersed Israelites were yet carnal, begotten only by fleshly seed that was as perishable as grass. Those people were yet Lo-ruhamah and Lo-ammi. The only way for them to change their status (relationship with God) was to receive the spiritual seed of the word being offered to them.
Not All Israelites Were Chosen
Only those receiving this spiritual seed are actually “chosen.” Paul says in Rom. 9:6, “they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.” There is no such thing as “a holy nation” of sinners, nor does God set up unbelievers to be His “royal priesthood.” The apostle Paul tells us that of the millions of Israelites in the land (prior to their dispersion), only a tiny remnant of grace were actually “chosen.” He speaks of the days of Ahab and Jezebel and Elijah’s complaint in the first few verses of Romans 11. Then Romans 11:4, 5 says,
4 But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice [ekloga, “the act of choosing”].
The Emphatic Diaglott reads, “an election of favor.” The term ekloga refers to those whom God has chosen or elected. The term “elect” or “election” is interchangeable with “chosen.” I say that because many have separated the terms and have applied the idea of a “chosen people” to a fleshly genealogy, while applying “the elect” to those of a spiritual seed. Such distinctions are unwarranted and misleading. Either the old man of flesh is chosen or the new creation man is chosen. We cannot claim both to be chosen.
Paul himself goes on to tell us in Romans 11:7, 8,
7 What then? That which Israel is seeking for, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened [poros, “like stone, hard and blind, covered over, to render stupid or callous”]. 8 just as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes to see not and ears to hear not [Isaiah 29:10], down to this very day.”
Paul was telling us that the remnant of grace (numbering just 7,000) in Elijah’s day were “chosen,” while the rest of the Israelites were hardened, stupid, and callous toward the word of God. It is plain that King Ahab was not one of God’s chosen people, nor will he rule with Christ in the age to come. His fleshly genealogy as an Israelite was irrelevant.
So also in the first century there were dispersed Israelites north of the seven churches who had been begotten by the Spirit and who were thus “a chosen race.” Peter was not identifying them with the non-chosen, Lo-ammi people who had been called Israelites in past centuries. Instead, he was identifying them with a new “race” (genos, “kindred, offspring”) of people who had been begotten by spiritual seed.
The New Race of Sons
This new “race” is made up of people who are fathered by God Himself through the Holy Spirit. They have been begotten in similar fashion to the virgin birth of Christ, for Jesus had no earthly father, but was begotten by the Holy Spirit. So also are we begotten, and that holy seed within us is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
The “mothers” of Christ all have different fleshly characteristics and come from many ethnic groups, but they all have God as their Father. That is what makes them “sons of God.” More particularly, it is the New Creation Man within each chosen person that is a “son of God.” When we identify with that New Creation Man and cease to have confidence in the old man of flesh, then and only then can we truthfully claim to be a son of God. Those who claim to be sons of God by virtue of their fleshly, biological birth show evidence of blindness and hardening. Hence, it is not likely that they are truly “chosen” by God.
This is the message of sonship in the book of Hosea. Though the prophet says little about the manner in which the divine goal should be accomplished, we know from apostolic teaching how this could take place in a lawful way.
When the hardened Israelites were cast out of the land, they lost their status as Israelites and came to be known by other names; however, in reality, as individuals these unbelievers had never been chosen at all. Only the elect remnant was actually chosen. So their divorce and dispersion was only history catching up spiritual reality.
Furthermore, this divorce proclaimed Israel to be not God’s wife, not His people, and not pitied. A divorced wife is no different from any other woman insofar as the husband is concerned. In fact, a divorced wife was even at a disadvantage, because a man was not forbidden to marry another woman, but he was forbidden to return to his divorced wife—even if her latter husband died or divorced her.
The point is that from a legal standpoint, Israel became non-chosen and was reduced to the same status as all of the other nations find themselves. The only way to regain “chosen” status was by faith in Jesus Christ, and this was open equally to all nations. The path to being “chosen” is the same for all. There is equal opportunity for all. In the end, all will indeed come to the place of faith in Christ. The gospel will yet be preached in purity.
Finally, the dead too will be raised so that they may fulfill the Second Passover law (Numbers 9:5-11), which was established for those who could not keep the first Passover. Those who were not justified by faith in the blood of the Lamb in their first life time will be raised from the dead and will keep the Second Passover in that day, for it is written, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10, 11).
This is part 15 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Hosea." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones