The Regathering of Israel & Judah 

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 26 Nov 2010


1:10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.  11 Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel. 2:1 Say ye unto your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruhamah” (Hosea 1:10-2:1)

The prophet Hosea ministered during a period of time in the history of the Old Testament church known as the Divided Kingdom. The kingdom of Israel was one body during the days of David and Solomon. But after Solomon, the kingdom was divided into two. The Southern Kingdom, known as the Kingdom of Judah, was ruled by Rehoboam. The people in the south became known as the Jews. The Northern Kingdom, known as the Kingdom of Israel, was ruled by Jeroboam I. And the people were known as Israelites. Jeroboam, in order to make sure that the Israelites would not return to Jerusalem to worship, set up two places of worship with golden calves to represent Jehovah.

This was a direct violation of the 2nd Commandment, which teaches us that God may not be worshipped in any way not ordained in His word. The Northern Kingdom never recovered from her apostasy.

The Prophet Hosea’s ministry was directed to the Israelites in the Northern Kingdom. But notice how he dates the period of his ministry first in reference to the kings of the South (Hos 1:1). He does so, perhaps, because he recognised that it was in the South that the legitimate kingship of the church of old was found.

He ministered during the days of Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. It was during the reign of Uzziah, that Jeroboam II, the son of Joash, became king in the Northern Kingdom. Hosea would preach during Jeroboam’s reign, and during the tumultuous 25 years that followed. Those 25 years would see 6 different kings on the throne (Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekiah, Pekah and Hoshea). The period would end with disaster when the Kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC.

What was Hosea’s message? His message was that the people in the north had broken their covenant relationship with God. They had mixed the pure worship of God with idolatry and the religions of the people in surrounding lands. Hosea warned them of judgement to come. But his message of doom was tempered with a message of God’s love for His people.

In fact, this book is beautifully divided into 5 cycles, with each cycle beginning with Condemnation, and ending with Consolation.[1]

This evening, the Lord helping us, as part of our series on the great and precious promises of God, we want to consider the promise that concludes the first cycle (1:1-2:1). This promise begins with the word ‘yet…”:

1:10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea...

Now, the word ‘yet’, invites us to consider the background condemnation that makes this promise all the more precious. So let’s look briefly at the condemnation and then consider the promise.


1. The Condemnation

Hosea began his ministry in a most unique way. He was to begin his ministry with marriage. But it was no ordinary marriage. He was to marry a wife of whoredoms and to have children with her (v. 2). Now a whore is a prostitute! We can imagine how Hosea must have been shocked by the Lord’s instruction. But why? Why did the Lord give this instruction? God’s answer is: “for the land [i.e. Israel] hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD” (v. 2b).

Hosea’s marriage and love for his wayward wife is intended to be a vivid picture of God’s relationship with Israel. Israel was the bride of God, but she had become a whore,—and a great whore at that,—in forsaking her husband and going after strange gods.

The love of God for his people is always amazing because throughout the ages his people never reciprocated his love—no, not in the Old Testament, and neither in the New Testament. No child of God has ever loved God and served Him with the love He deserves. But what is worse is that God’s people have a tendency to stray from the Lord. “My people are bent to backsliding from me” says the LORD through Hosea in chapter 11 (Hos 11:7).

At the time when Hosea began his ministry, the people of Israel had not only backslidden, they had already gone a whoring after false gods with vehemence.

Now, Hosea had 3 children through his wife Gomer; and it is interesting to see how God named all three of them to indicate the judgement that he was meting out to Israel for her unfaithfulness.

The first child was name Jezreel (v. 4). Jezreel comes from two Hebrew words זרע (zara) which means scatter or sow. A farmer scatters the seed in order to sow. The second word is אל (el) means God. So Jezreel means “God scatters” or “God sows.”

Hosea was to name his first son Jezreel, in the first instance, for a rather complex reason, which we will not go into tonight. But we will see how the name will help us to understand God’s blessing when we look at the promise.

Now, Gomer’s second child was a daughter. God instructed Hosea to call her Lo-Ruhamah. ‘Lo’ is Hebrew for ‘no’; ‘Ruhamah’ comes from the Hebrew racham which describes a tender feeling of compassion, mercy or love. So Lo-Ruhamah means ‘she has received no compassion’ or ‘she is not loved’.

Hosea was to name his daughter Lo-Ruhamah for the LORD says: “I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away” (v. 6). God would no more show compassion, pity, love or mercy to the house of Israel. He will take them away, and he will carry them into exile.

God is patient, but His patience does not violate His justice. His patience for the wicked will not last forever. Israel had exhausted His patience. He would now visit her iniquity and show no compassion or mercy.

Gomer’s third child was a son. God instructed Hosea to name him Lo-Ammi. ‘Lo’ is Hebrew for ‘no’. ‘Ammi’ means ‘my people’. Lo-Ammi means ‘not my people.’ Hosea was to call his son Lo-Ammi because God would say to Israel: “ye are not my people, and I will not be your God” (v. 9). This statement is a very significant one. It is a negation of something that God has said to his people on many occasions, namely: “I will be your God and you will be my people” (Lev 26:12; Ex 6:7; Dt 26:17-18).

But now Israel in the North would no longer be God’s people, God was abandoning them. He was severing his covenant ties with them.

In a sense, He is saying that He is cutting them off. Israel would no longer be part of His covenant people. The candlestick was being removed. The branch of the olive tree was being lobed off. The elect would no longer be found in her though they will continue to be found amongst the Jews.

It was a sad day for Israel. It was a day of warning for God’s visible covenant people throughout the ages. God can and does cut off whole congregations when they apostatise from Him.

But thank God that He never forsakes His Church. He may cut off entire congregations, but the Church as a whole will never be destroyed. This was true in the days of the Old Testament, and it is true today. Our Confession of Faith highlights this doctrine in these words:

WCF 25.5 The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a Church on earth to worship God according to His will.

That is to say: though churches may be cut off, and cease to be the legitimate branches of the church of Christ, yet God will always have His people on earth, and they will gather in true churches.

This truth, I believe, is the promise of our text beginning with the word ‘Yet.’


2. The Promise

1:10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.  11 Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel. 2:1 Say ye unto your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruhamah.

Now, when you read these verses, you may think that the Lord is saying that though he would disown the Northern Kingdom, yet He will bless them with many children, and then one day He will gather them back to Jezreel, and He will receive them back, to be His people. And then the children of Judah will also come to them and they will appoint one king—so Israel and Judah will be reunited and they will both be one as God’s people and will both experience God’s mercy.

Well, this seems to be what the text says literally; and there are some commentators who say this will actually happen. This will happen after the battle of Armageddon in Valley of Jezreel recorded in Revelation 16:16, they say. After this battle, there will be one thousand years of peace… Judah and Israel would have been re-gathered back to the land and will dwell in peace for 1000 years. So they say.

I would submit to you however, that this is a wrong interpretation of the Scriptures. These commentators are right that the one head in verse 11 refers to the Lord Jesus Christ; but they are wrong to think that there will be 1000 years of peace only, or that there will be a literal throne in Jerusalem. And I am quite convinced that there will be no battle of Armageddon  in Jezreel.

Why do I say that? Well, because the New Testament has given an interpretation of the text. Turn with me to Romans 9:24—

24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? 25 As he saith also in Osee [i.e. Hosea], I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. 26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God” (Rom 9:24-26).

The apostle Paul, we can have no doubt, is quoting from Hosea 1:10. Did the apostle Paul make a mistake? Did he misuse the Scripture? Wasn’t Hosea referring to the Israelites in the Northern Kingdom? Were not the words of the Lord directed to the Israelites in the Northern kingdom? Did the apostle quote the verses out of context?

No, I do not think so; the Scripture cannot be broken, for the apostle Paul wrote under inspiration. I believe Hosea 1:10 is to be interpreted exactly as the apostle Paul has given us in Romans 9:24-26.

When literal Israel apostatized, they were cut off. They became no more the people of God. The people of Israel, at that point, ceased to be Israel. “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” says the apostle Paul in the same chapter (Romans 9:6). The Israelites in the Northern Kingdom, having been cut off, were no longer of Israel. They were no longer God’s people. God’s promises were no longer for them.

The term ‘Israel’ in the prophecy from v. 10 onwards no longer refers to them. In fact, today, it would be near impossible to find a people who could trace their ancestry back to the people in the Northern Kingdom. The fact is: the people in the Northern Kingdom, unlike the people in the south, did not maintain their integrity as a people. They were dispersed everywhere, and inter-married with other races. No, the term ‘Israel’ in v. 10-11 refers rather to the elect Gentile or the children of Abraham scattered around the world that God would ingraft into the same olive tree as the Jews who remained true to him.

In verse 10 of our text, the Lord alludes to the Abrahamic Promise in the word “the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea.” But you must remember that the Abrahamic Promise is not so much about physical descendants, as it is about spiritual descendants. The Lord Jesus Christ told the Jews who did not believe in Him, that they were children of the devil, and not ultimately the children of Abraham (Jn 8). Likewise, the apostle Paul says: “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:29).

Let me put it this way: The Abrahamic covenant is not about physical descendants, but about those who are in Christ. Paul stresses this fact when he says: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal 3:16).

Under the Old Testament, it appears that the promise has to do with physical descendants because God does promise to save the children of believers, and therefore true believers were generally found within the nation of Israel. But the nation of Israel as a whole were known as the people of God not because every member without exception was united with God, but because they were organically united to those who were true children of God.

Think of a wheat field. A wheat field is known as a wheat field because wheat is cultivated in it. But a wheat field has tares or weed growing in it too, yet we call the field a wheat field because of the wheat. Now we would still call it a wheat field even if the field has a lot of tare growing in it. But comes a day when the whole field comprises generally tare, and only a few stalks of wheat, then what do we call the field? We call it a tare field, and no more a wheat field.

Or let me put it this way: God’s covenant mercy and love was not for the Kingdom of Israel as a whole. This is why when there were effectively no more believers left in the Kingdom, God could pronounce to them “Lo-Ruhamah” and “Lo-Ammi.” God’s covenant mercy and love was for the wheat, for such as truly belong to Him, not for the tare. When there is no more wheat left, He disowns the field.

But one day, he would plant his field again, for he would raise Israel from amongst the Gentiles. Jezreel means “God scatters” but it also means “God sows.” God scattered to sow. God would scatter Israel and at the same time sow again. He would cultivate a wheat field again. The “Israel of God” (Gal 6:16) would arise again, but this time comprising largely of Gentiles as well as a remnant of the Jews. “Great shall be the day of Jezreel” says Hosea.

In that day, the Jews and the Gentiles will be one in Christ Jesus, for Christ “is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” says the apostle Paul (Eph 2:13-15).

Praise God for granting us salvation in Christ! Praise God for giving us the privilege of sharing in His covenant blessing with his saints of the Old Testament!


Conclusion

What do we say to these things?

Beloved brethren and children, we are here today because God is fulfilling his own promise in Christ. “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Cor 1:20).

Because of Christ, we who were Lo-Ammi, is now Ammi. We were not a people, but we are now “God’s people’. We were Lo-Ruhamah, but we are not Ruhamah—being recipients of God’s love and compassion Christ.

But let us take warning. We saw that God will cut off such as remain in unrepentance even if they are outwardly His covenant people. God would even cut off a whole kingdom, not to mention local congregations and individuals who remain unrepentant. Oh will you not take heed to your life and seek first His kingdom and His righteousness to the end that you and your my enjoy the blessings of being God’s people until the day of Christ our King. Amen. Ω



[1] 1st cycle—1:1-2:1; 2nd —2:2-3:5; 3rd—4:1-6:3; 4th—6:4-11:11; and 5th— 11:12-14:9.