The books of prophecy written by Hosea and Joel are the first two books of the Old Testament division referred to as “Minor Prophets.” Hosea consists of fourteen chapters while Joel has only three chapters. Though small, these books of Scripture are important. They give us much insight to the nature of God and His relationship with His people. They also help us to understand events that later unfolded in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.
The prophecy of Hosea was one that unfolded as the events of his life became an allegory to the relationship of Israel to God. Hosea was commanded by God to take a prostitute as his wife. She was unfaithful to him, and he had to restore her as his wife. This was illustrative of the spiritual adulteries that Israel committed against God, and His efforts to restore them to a right relationship with Him. The brief book of Joel describes the devastation of the land by swarms of locusts and a call to repentance. The following truths are a few of the things that can be ascertained through a study of these two prophetic books.
Sin is abhorrent in God’s eyes. God demonstrates the nature of Israel’s sins and her spiritual adultery in worshipping false gods by Hosea’s unlikely marriage to Homer, a prostitute who continues to go after other lovers. God told Hosea “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the Lord” (Hos. 1:2, NKJV). God desired a relationship with the nation of Israel, but Israel had departed from God and had pursued idolatry. God was repulsed by the sins of Israel, but desired that the nation would repent and come back to Him. God said: “I will return again to My place till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me” (Hos. 5:15).
God’s attitude toward sin is also demonstrated in the book of Joel. Concerning the violent sins against His people, God said “Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom a desolate wilderness, because of violence against the people of Judah, for they have shed innocent blood in their land” (Joel 3:19). The shedding of innocent blood is listed as one of the seven sins that are an abomination to God (Prov. 6:17). God hates all sin. God is Holy and cannot abide with sin (Hab. 1:13). Sin separates God from His people (Is. 59:2). God’s people are commanded to be holy, as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:16).
God is a just judge. Homer bore three children to Hosea. Each of these children were given a name that bore a message to God’s people. The first was a son named Jezreel, which means “God sows.” The second was a daughter named Lo-ruha-ma, which means “no mercy.” The third was another son named Lo-ammi, which means “not my people.” Both Jezreel and Lo-ruha-ma were given names that pronounce God’s judgment on Israel. Upon naming Lo-Ruhamah, God stated “For I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, but I will utterly take them away” (Hos. 1:6 NKJV). God had been longsuffering in His mercy upon Israel, even though the nation had often forsaken His laws and sinned against Him. Now “God sows” judgment and will have “no mercy” unless the nation repents.
Joel also warned of God’s judgment upon His people. He proclaimed, “The Lord gives voice before His army, for His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; Who can endure it?” (Joel 2:11). God is good. God is merciful. God is also just and jealous. In Deuteronomy 4:24 God speaks of Himself as “a consuming fire, a jealous God.” God is jealous when His people turn from Him to idols. Those idols may be statues made of metal, wood, or stone. They also may be sports, politics, family, false religions, or anything else that one gives allegiance to instead of God. Every person should take heed to the warning given in Paul’s epistle to the Roman church: “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off” (Rom. 11:22).
God is merciful. God had warned the Jews many times concerning the consequences of their sins. He had told them of the impending judgment that was to be pronounced upon them. He reminded them that He was their judge. However, God assured them that He would grant mercy to them if they returned to Him. As a loving Father, He warned them of the danger of the path they were taking. He implored them to return to Him and spoke of His love for them. He said, “Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah, will save them by the Lord their God…” (Hos. 1:7a). God brought about the destruction of Israel as He promised in Hosea 1:6 but saved Judah in such a supernatural fashion as prophesied here when He defeated the Assyrian army by slaying 185,000 of its men during the night through an angel (2 Kings 19:32-36).
The third child of Gomer, Lo-Ammi (not my people) was so named as a denunciation of those who had been God’s people but had left Him. God said, “For you are not my people, and I will not be your God” (Hos. 1:9). However, God also said, “Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ and they shall say, You are my God!’” (Hos. 2:23). God is merciful, and even in this judgment speaks of the mercy He will extend to those who come to Him in penitence.
After the establishment of the church, God extended His grace to the Gentiles, who until that time had not been His people. This prompted Paul to quote Hosea 2:23 and Hosea 1:10 in reference to the Gentile Christians becoming God’s people as He extended His mercy to them (Rom. 9:25-26). Peter would write to the church that they were those “who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Pet. 2:10). Today, all who will come to God in obedience to His will can be His people! Speaking through the prophet Joel, God said “Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. (Joel 2:13b). God is indeed a God of mercy!
God provides a way of salvation. It has been established that God is holy and cannot dwell with sin. He is a just judge, but merciful. God desires to be with His creation in a harmonious relationship. Sin destroys that relationship. All have sinned (Rom. 3:23) and the wages of sin is death, or spiritual separation from God (Rom. 6:23). God has prepared a way in which man can come to Him and dwell with Him in holy harmony. This requires of one an allegiance to God and no other. He said, “You shall know no god but Me; for there is no savior besides Me” (Hos. 13:4b). If one would find harmony with their Creator, then one must walk in the ways of righteousness. “Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the Lord are right; The righteous walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them (Hos. 14:9).
God would ultimately provide a way for all who would be saved to live in harmony with Him. This was prophesied by Joel: “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the remnant whom the Lord calls (Joel 2:32). This prophecy of a coming deliverance was fulfilled on the day the Lord’s church was established. As Peter was preaching the first gospel sermon, He quoted the prophecy found in Joel 2 and demonstrated how that what was taking place was the fulfillment of that prophecy. On that day those who were willing obeyed God’s plan for salvation as they repented of their sins and were baptized for the remission of their sins in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38, 41). The people who thus responded to God’s plan for salvation were added to the church (Acts 2:47) and became God’s people.
Today, those who are not God’s people can be if they will do the same as the ones who obeyed God’s plan of salvation. God’s plan of salvation is to hear the gospel (Rom. 10:17), believe it (John 8:24), repent of sin (Acts 17:30), confess Jesus as the Son of God (Acts 8:37), and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:3-6;1 Peter 3:21).