Hosea certainly was given a difficult calling by God. The Lord’s requirement for Hosea that he marry an immoral woman is so surprising that some commentators argue that the account is only a story rather than historical fact. They would argue that the three children are only part of the story as well. Yet there is no hint that the account is fictional.
Why did the Lord ask his servant to marry such a woman and then to give their children special names? One answer is that the Lord wants his servants to be aware of his divine pain and to be informed about his divine purpose.
Regarding Hosea’s wife, we see in Gomer a picture of the people of God who had reneged on their commitment to the Lord. While they were indifferent to the broken relationship, the Lord could not be. As they observed this strange marriage, surely they should have deduced that God was speaking to them through it, saying that although they had sinned and worshipped false gods the Lord was determined to deal with them as their God. He will keep his covenant responsibilities.
The names of the children also had a message. Jezreel, the oldest, reminded Hosea that judgement was coming on his people Israel because of their sins. No Mercy, the second child, reminded Hosea every day that the coming judgement would divide God’s people, with the northern kingdom (Israel) being deprived of mercy whereas the southern kingdom (Judah) would still enjoy God’s help. Not My People, the third child, indicated to Hosea that his message was that a divorce was coming between God and the northern kingdom. This happened when the northern kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrian empire.
The judgement was severe. Yet Hosea was told more about God’s will. The Lord told his servant that there would yet be times of great prosperity for his people (vv. 10-11). There would be a population explosion (numbering like the sand by the sea), they would have a new name (children of the living God), and they would be marked by unity under one King (Judah and Israel would be together). Hosea was not told when this time of prosperity would come.
Paul, however, says in Romans 9:24-26 that it has been fulfilled in the coming into existence of the New Testament church, which means that it has an ongoing fulfilment as well as an initial one. So we, if we are Christians, are mentioned here in Hosea 1 because we belong to Christ’s church. As Hosea was told, the church (1) always enjoys increase in population through conversions, (2) each member of it is a member of God’s family, and (3) in it the racial and religious barriers to unity have been removed and together we serve one King, Jesus.
By faith, Hosea as he lived in a society facing divine judgement was comforted by the future glory of God’s kingdom. Such comfort is also ours to enjoy.