lion_cross_sm“I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! Pity is hidden from my eyes.” (Hosea 13:14)

These are the words of God Almighty, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and spoken through the prophet Hosea seven hundred years before Christ’s death and resurrection.

In this prophecy, God’s mercy is described as merciless. Before you disregard that thought as inherently contradictory, please allow me to explain. Better yet, it would be good for you to find a Bible and follow along.

Dead on Arrival – The prophecy begins with a sad announcement: “When Ephraim spoke, trembling, he exalted himself in Israel, but when he offended through Baal worship, he died.”  Ephraim’s disease began with the sin of self-exaltation and ended with the sin of idolatry. He was now dead (not physically, but spiritually). [1]

Proof of Death – The prophecy then offers some forensic evidence that death had indeed occurred: “Now they sin more and more.”  Unlike physical death, spiritual death does not consist in inactivity. It brings forth sin. [2]

Cause of Death – The prophecy then performs something of an autopsy to discover the cause of death and here is the conclusion: Even though God had been faithful to his people over many generations, prosperity had blinded them. God quickly brings us to the bottom line, saying, “They forgot me.” [3]

Justice Served – The most unsettling aspect of the prophecy is this: God was not heart-broken by the demise of his people, but actually owns responsibility for it. Once God set his sights on their sin, there was no escape. His justice hunted them down like “a lion” and then tore into them like “a wild beast.” Yes, God hates sin that intensely. [4]

A Hint of Hope – While there is no escaping God, there is also no need to try. He, in a single breath, owns responsibility for such destruction and offers sweet hope, saying, “O Israel, you are destroyed, but your help is from me.” [5]  After centuries of waiting on the Lord to fulfill this promise, help finally arrived in the person of Jesus Christ.

War Waged Against Sin – The Lord Jesus Christ came into this world to save us from the sin and death which destroyed God’s people in the days Hosea.  He did this, first of all, by taking our sins upon himself and suffering as our substitute. At Calvary, divine justice tore into Jesus’ soul without mercy. [6]

Having thus disarmed the power of sin on the cross, Jesus descended into Hell (no longer as a suffering victim, but as the conquering victor). [7]  There, surrounded by the powers of darkness, Jesus made good on his threat: “O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! Pity is hidden from my eyes.”

After this unseen slaughter in the spiritual realms, Christ Jesus burst the gates of Hell and rose from the dead on the third day so that we might never fear sin or death again. [8]

Conclusion – It is indeed a gory gospel that the scriptures present. Sadly, many try to sanitize passages like Hosea 13 in an effort to make the gospel seem more appealing. But in this they actually do us sinners a great disservice.

Those who have felt the cruel power of sin, death, and Hell know that they need more than that appealing-yet-anemic gospel which is preached (?) in so many modern churches. They need — I need  — what was prophesied in Hosea chapter 13: The Merciless Mercy of God

Scripture references for deeper study:

1. Hosea 13:1, Ephesians 2:11

2. Hosea 13:2, James 1:15

3. Hosea 13:6, Deuteronomy 8:11-20, 32:13-15

4. Hosea 13:7-8, Psalm 5:-6

5. Hosea 13:9, Psalm 139:7-8, 23-24

6. Mark 15:34, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, etc.

7. Colossians 2:13-15, Ephesians 4:8-10

8. Hosea 6:2, Matthew 28:1-8, Hebrews 2:14-18