The newest volume in the Gospel According to the Old Testament series is now out. It is a volume on Hosea, and it is a dandy. It is just the right book to hand out to the people in the congregation as a pastor is preaching through the book, and it is an excellent book to read before preaching through Hosea.
In the introduction, Barrett pegs most people as they “study” the Bible:
Part of the problem in most Bible study is that unless the message is on the surface, the average reader moves on in his reading, kicking up dust until coming across an obvious surface lesson (p. xvi).
Indeed. If only people would persevere in their Bible study, they might be able to make heads or tails out of, say, the Minor Prophets. Barrett promises something better, and he delivers.
He says this about Hosea as a whole: “Understanding the theology of marriage as a biblical symbol and type of God’s relationship to His people and specifically of Christ’s relationship to His church is essential to grasping the significance of Hosea’s experience” (xxi). As a side note, I appreciate the capitalized references to God. It doesn’t appear that very many people do that anymore. However, I think it furthers clarity of thought, especially when pronoun references come thick and fast, and one wonders what is the antecedent of a certain pronoun. It becomes clear when the pronoun is capitalized. This should be done in Bible translation as well.
The book is divided into three main parts: background (entitled “Just the Facts”); “Lifestyle Evangelism” (dealing with the life of Hosea as constituting a message); and “The Sermon,” dealing with the message of Hosea. There is also an extremely helpful appendix dealing with Hosea 11:1 as Matthew 2:15 interprets it.
Here are several quotations that I found helpful: “The Lord was using his whole miserable, tragic experience of personal sorrow and emotional distress to portray a vivid lesson to Israel” (p. 74); (commenting on “wife of whoredom” in Hosea 1:2) “It most likely refers to Gomer’s latent bent toward immorality that surfaced not long after the marriage” (p. 80, in an excellent discussion of the various views on the phrase); “This is a key link to the spiritual parallel: God loves us in spite of what He knows about us” (p. 81); “But even if she was physically attractive, her inward character was so repulsive that loving her made no sense. As amazing as Hosea’s love for Gomer was, it pales in comparison to God’s love for us” (p. 84).
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know why in the world Hosea is in the Bible, and what kind of a message the book is giving to us.