Hosea was an unusual prophet. God called him to preach to the northern kingdom of Israel during a particularly rebellious time in their history. They had been unfaithful to God by worshiping idols. The metaphor that runs throughout the book is marital unfaithfulness. Israel was like an adulterous wife who had forgotten her husband (the Lord, her Savior and Provider) and had sold her affection to other (false) gods. To put it rather coarsely, but true to the intent of Scripture, Israel had become a spiritual whore (v.15), a prostitute. The Lord had grounds to “divorce” His people once and for all, but — and this is the beautiful part of the story — He extended grace and love, offering to forgive and restore His wayward people.
Sometimes God communicates His message in unusual ways. In those days, when God’s people would not hear the message of the prophets with their ears, sometimes God would have the prophets act out the message in their own lives. In other words, the preacher actually became the sermon. That is exactly what happened with Hosea. He married a woman who was a serial adulterer. She cheated on him repeatedly and even became a prostitute, but Hosea never stopped loving her. He pursued her, bought her out of slavery, and took her back into his home. What love!
In this chapter we hear a sermon God gave Hosea, and he preached it from a broken heart — a heart that had felt the sting of betrayal and the pain of unfaithfulness. In verse 1 the indictment is handed down: the people do not know the Lord anymore, and they certainly don’t love Him like they used to. Instead (v.2), they break His commandments (and His heart). The prophet levels his accusations at the priests, who had forgotten God’s law and neglected their duties. Because they had rejected God from their religious practices, God had rejected them (v.6). Verses 10-14 reveal that the priests had become involved in drunken orgies disguised as religious services in the pagan temples.
It is not clear whether the priests were leading the people into sin or just following the crowd, but either way the results were disastrous. The whole nation was consumed with sin and stubbornly refused to repent (v.16). They had drifted so far away from the Lord that they no longer felt a sense of shame when they got drunk and hired prostitutes. The nation was in need of revival. Tomorrow we shall hear God’s gracious call to repentance and revival. After all they had done, He still loved them. He still wanted their love in return. What an amazing God!