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 Reforming the Reformation 

Hosea

 Of Lovers and Whores: Jeremiah Burroughs on Hosea 2

 Dave Bish

 

 

 

This is Dave Bish's introduction to Puritan preacher Jeremiah Burroughs' classic exposition of Hosea 2, now available in book form and in modern English. It is available through Lulu publishers, and the introduction appears here by permission.

 

Introducing Jeremiah Burroughs

Jeremiah Burroughs (1600-1646) was a Puritan minister in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, Tivetshall, Norfolk, Rotterdam in the Netherlands and at Stepney and St. Giles, Cripplegate, London. He was considered to be an “excellent minister of Christ.” He was an exemplary relationship builder and healer of divisions in the church. 

This book is an edited extract from Burroughs epic work on Hosea. The complete work is almost 700 pages of small print and is taken from his preaching on this book[1]. Charles Spurgeon described that work as “a treasure-house of experimental exposition.” His writing has the feel of a commentary due to its detailed attention to the Biblical text, but is laced with prophetic preaching into the situations of his day. Reading him four hundred years later these may at times feel a little removed from our context but many of the lessons remain current and in any case Burroughs’ heart for his people, and for the relishing of Christ, remain clear and accessible.

Burroughs opens his preaching series on Hosea, which eventually extended through to Hosea 13:11 before his death saying: “We might preface our work by labouring to raise your hearts to the consideration of the excellence of the Scriptures in general. Luther says it contains all good. Take away the Scripture, and you even take away the sun from the world. What is the world without the Scriptures, but hell itself? We have had indeed the word of God as the sun in the world, but oh how many mists have been before this sun! Seldom does the sun shines clearly to us. Since such a glorious sun has risen, it is distressing that there should be a misty day. Now the work to which we are called is, to dispel the mists and fogs from before this sun that it may shine more brightly before your eyes, and into your hearts.

Chrysostom in his twenty-ninth sermon upon Genesis, exhorting his auditors to get the Scriptures into their houses, and diligently to exercise themselves in them, tells them that by them the soul is raised, elevated, and brightened, as with the beam of the Sun of righteousness, and delivered from the snares of unclean thoughts. In the Scripture the great God of heaven has sent his mind to the children of me; he has made known the counsel of his will, and opened his very heart unto mankind.”

From this conviction Burroughs turns to preach the word from the concise prophet, Hosea. To clear the mist and have the sunshine of the gospel penetrate the hearts of his listeners.

Introducing the prophecy of Hosea

The Bible speaks with much imagery and metaphor, but perhaps its richest speech to reveal the Triune God and his relationship with his people, is cast in the terms of the opening chapters of the Scriptures. Within two chapters of Genesis we have established the categories of parents and children as human beings (in addition to plants and animals) are commissioned to be fruitful and multiply, and we have the language of marriage as the man meets his bride.

The Son reveals his Father, and so sonship will be a persistent theme in the Scriptures, as the story searches through plotlines and genealogies for the coming of the promised Son who will crush evil beneath his wounded feet.

Alongside this great theme is that of marriage, or of Espousal Theology. It is not good for the man to be alone, and neither will it be good for the promised Son to be alone. A bride must be found for him, and so the story of the human race tells not just of sons born but of marriages formed. Abraham is thrust into crisis as his bride is threatened in Egypt. The longest narrative in Genesis tells of Abraham’s servant sent to “find a bride for my son.”

Israel will be married to the LORD at the mountain with a marriage ceremony and feast in Exodus 24, before committing great adultery in Exodus 32. They’ll be led astray at Shittim through whoredom with foreign women and their gods, before spies enter the land at the home of another prostitute.

Great David will prove himself not to be the awaited Son as he commits adultery with Bathsheba. Solomon’s heart will prove similarly unfaithful, though he will write the most beautiful love poetry in his Song of Songs.

The nation follows their king and will be repeatedly characterised as a people of whoredom leading to their exile from the land.

In the years of exile, a foreign king will endure the adulterous moves of his bride Vashti. Though brides are their husband’s glory she denies his glory and is exiled. Who can find an excellent wife? In the king’s garden she hides her glory. Later this king will search the world for another bride, an adopted child. She will pass through a year of beautification to prepare her for her wedding night with the king.

When at last the promised Son comes he will speak of himself as a bridegroom, one who will soon depart to death. He whose death will save his bride and to whom the Spirit will be given to beautify her.

She will live waiting for her wedding day, the final day, gathering others to be part of his bride, the church, from all peoples of the world. And then the husband will come.

When Hosea is given the language of marriage and whoredom to preach to the people this is no innovation. This is no illustration. He is speaking in a language at the heart of reality. The Father has a Son and the Son is to have a bride. The marital relationship between Christ and his people is no shadow.

Christ is the bridegroom awaiting his wedding day. The great romantic comedy of the gospel awaits its final scene, yet as with any rom-com there is pain and crisis along the way. He is the great lover, but his beloved is a whore.

The crisis is found in the human heart which is shown not so much to be a rule-breaker but a seat of spiritual adultery.

As Paul writes to the Corinthians (2 Cor 11:1-3), they are like Eve, led astray from a pure devotion to Christ to whom they’re betrothed by the gospel that was preached to them. Humanity is like Adam (Hosea 6:7), faithless and unfaithful.

Burroughs writes: “The people of Israel had gone whoring from God. Their idolatry is the sin of whoredom. The idolatry of the church is whoredom. One that commits adultery gives herself to another. When the people of God, being married to the Lord, commit idolatry, they commit adultery. Adultery breaks the marriage bond. Adultery is a besotting sin. Whoredom and new wine take away the heart. As Proverbs 22:14 says, “the mouth of strange women is as a deep pit; he that is abhorred by the Lord shall fall into it.”

In Hosea’s day we find that the people have turned from their faithful Husband to give their hearts to the Baal’s. They have devoted themselves to Lords and Masters who offer some satisfaction but in truth are abusive and evil and dominating. The contrast between the LORD and the Baals could not be greater. Where the Baals demand worship, the LORD gives himself to his people. Where the Baals enslave their followers, the LORD liberates and loves his people.

She has strayed badly, so what can be done? Either the marriage will be over, or at great cost the jilted spouse will take back his wandering lover. Hosea tells a story that may also be told in the pages of Isaiah and Ezekiel and Jeremiah, the story of the LORD’s great love for his unfaithful wife.

A story told in the poetic language of The Song of Songs and set in the typology of Ephesians 5. Christ came into the world and gave himself up to death, to win a bride for himself, to have her for himself and make her beautiful.

To portray this situation to the LORD’s people Hosea is given a strange commission. The prophets are invited into the counsel of God to share in his purposes, and Hosea is granted the peculiar calling of marrying a prostitute. Some read this and doubt that a prophet would be given a calling. Even Burroughs suggests that this marriage was just a vision rather than truly being a marriage. It is hard to stomach! And yet if we were to ask Hosea, “Why would the LORD ask you to marry a whore?” he would surely reply “My question is: why would the Lord give himself to a people as faithless as us?”

The prophet’s message is scandalous, as scandalous as the love of the LORD for his people, as scandalous as the crucifixion of Christ.

Hosea’s prophecy tells of the people’s unfaithfulness and the LORD’s response. Hosea 2:14-20 captures the heart of The Gospel according to Hosea and so proves a good place to spend our time.

She has forgotten her Husband and gone after her lovers, how will he respond? In brief, we find that he comes to her at the height of her sin and seeks to woo her heart back to him. He speaks with the comfortable words of the gospel.

His tender words to her, surely echoing the liturgical ‘Comfortable Words’ of martyred Archbishop Thomas Cranmer:

Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ says, to all who truly turn to him:  Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will refresh you.

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Hear what Paul says: This is a true saying, and worthy of acceptance by all, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.

Hear what John says: If anyone sins we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one, he is the propitiation for our sins.

Christ the Husband draws her to come after him that she might know his great love, in all its height and depth and length and breadth. He whispers in her ears to win her heart. And so too the preacher walks in this Husband’s footsteps to utter the same wooing words. The gospel restates this wronged Husband’s commitment to be betrothed to a wretched people, his desire that in the end they would know the LORD and be known by him. His commitment to his people is: all that I have I share with you, all that I am I give to you.

The story of Hosea is humiliating but provides one of Scripture’s most vivid portrayals of the unmatched love of the LORD for his people. It humiliates humanity by exposing our folly, but even more it tells of the LORD’s humiliation. See him abandoned by her, and she his giving of himself to win her back. The crisis is devastating but the story holds out the happiest of endings.

The Father sent his Son into the world, in whom through faith we are adopted as sons – as we become one flesh with the Son. How is that possible? Only through the marriage of faithless whores to Christ our husband whose name is Love. He gives us his name, he gives us his relationship with his Father, he gives us his Spirit, he gives up his life and he gives us himself.

This is a story of lovers and whores.

 

That's the introduction... now to read Burroughs on Hosea 2 in contemporary English, get a copy of Of Lovers and Whores from Lulu.com now!



[1] The complete work is available from Reformation Heritage Books under the title An Exposition of the Prophecy of Hosea by Jeremiah Burroughs.