There are parts of the Bible that are tough to read. Sometimes there are places where sin is described in unfortunately accurate detail. Sometimes there are places where our our sin is clearly exposed. Sometimes there are places where brutal announcements of judgment offend our Western sentimentality.
Big chunks of Hosea fall into the latter two categories. As we have been walking through Hosea these last months, we have read some very uncomfortable verses. At times these announcements of judgment seem wearying. Again? More judgment? Where is God’s grace?
It’s there, we just have to keep reading. In fact, I think Hosea is a great example of the need for the “read to the end” hermeneutic. You can’t judge a novel by just reading part of it. How do the characters develop? How is the plot resolved? We need to interpret books of the Bible in the same way. The parts must be understood in light of the whole.
Yes, Hosea includes some of the most stern words of judgment in the Bible, like Hosea 9:17, “My God will reject them because they have not listened to him; they will become wanderers among the nations.” Ouch.
But Hosea also includes some of the most grace-filled, hope-giving words in the Bible. Consider Hosea 11:9, “I will not vent the full fury of my anger; I will not turn back to destroy Ephraim. For I am God and not man, the Holy One among you; I will not come in rage.” Or Hosea 14:4, “I will heal their apostasy; I will freely love them, for my anger will have turned from him.” These are sweet words of grace.
So why not just skip the hard words? Here’s why: We can’t fully grasp the power of God’s forgiveness and the depth of his love without understanding the depth of judgment our sin deserves. We can’t feel the relief of God turning his anger from us until we see just how hot his anger burns.
As I’ve been wrestling with these truths during our journey through Hosea, it dawned on me that this is why expository preaching is so important. To walk through Hosea as a church helps us not only understand how bad sin is, it also reveals just how glorious the gospel is.
So when you hit the hard passages of Scripture don’t despair, keep reading. The end is worth it.