To help class members understand that the Lord is loving and merciful and will forgive us when we repent and return to him.
Prayerfully study the following scriptures:
Additional reading: The rest of Hosea.
If you use the attention activity, write each of the following phrases on a separate piece of paper before class. If your class is small, prepare only one piece of paper for each class member.
“The children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea” (Hosea 1:10)
“I will pour out my wrath upon them like water” (Hosea 5:10)
“The Lord … shall come unto us as the rain” (Hosea 6:3)
“He shall come as an eagle” (Hosea 8:1)
“Israel is an empty vine” (Hosea 10:1)
“Judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field” (Hosea 10:4)
“They shall be … as the smoke out of the chimney” (Hosea 13:3)
“I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps [cubs]” (Hosea 13:8)
“I am like a green fir tree” (Hosea 14:8)
Suggested Lesson Development
You may want to use the following activity (or one of your own) to begin the lesson.
Distribute the papers you have prepared among class members (see “Preparation” above). Explain that each of these phrases is a comparison from the book of Hosea. Have each class member who received a paper read the phrase aloud and suggest one possible meaning for the comparison. For example, saying someone is “as a lion” may indicate strength or fierceness.
Why do you think Hosea and other prophets used comparisons? (Comparing a complicated or unfamiliar idea with one that is simpler or more familiar makes it more understandable to the people who are being taught. Comparisons also help provide a lot of detail in just a few words.)
Explain that in addition to these smaller comparisons, Hosea also used extended comparisons, which are called metaphors or similitudes (similitude is the word used in the scriptures). The book of Hosea contains several comparisons to help us understand the relationship between Jesus Christ and his people.
Scripture Discussion and Application
As you teach the following scripture passages, discuss how they apply to daily life. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.
1. Using the similitude of a faithful husband and an adulterous wife, Hosea describes the relationship between the Lord and Israel.
Teach and discuss Hosea 1–3. If you did not use the attention activity, explain what a similitude is before you begin the discussion.
One of the most frequently used similitudes in the scriptures describes the Lord as a bridegroom (or husband) and his covenant people as his bride (or wife). Hosea 1–3 powerfully uses this similitude, comparing Israel’s idol worship to adultery. In these chapters the prophet Hosea represents the Lord as the husband, and Gomer represents Israel as the wife.
In the book of Hosea, the Lord’s relationship with Israel (and with the Church today) is compared to the relationship between a husband and wife. What does this comparison teach us about the level of commitment and devotion the Lord expects from us?
In what way was ancient Israel comparable to Gomer, who is described as “a wife of whoredoms”? (See Hosea 1:2–3; 2:5, 13. Gomer had left her husband for her lovers; Israel had forgotten the Lord and become wicked.)
Who or what were Israel’s “lovers”—the things that caused the people to turn away from the Lord? (Other gods, material goods, and the practices of the world.) What things may divert us from our dedication to following the Savior?
To whom did the adulterous wife give credit for her food and clothing? (See Hosea 2:5.) To whom did the Israelites attribute the fruitful land in which they lived? (See Hosea 2:5, 12; to their false gods or idols.) How do people today give credit to false gods for the blessings they receive?
How did the husband remind his wife that he—not her lovers—supplied her with food, water, and other possessions? (See Hosea 2:8–9.) In what ways has the Lord provided you with material and spiritual blessings? How can we show our appreciation to the Lord for the blessings he gives us?
What was the attitude of the husband toward his unfaithful wife in Hosea 2:6–13? How was this attitude different in verses 14–23? (Point out that even though the wife had been unfaithful, the husband still loved her and wanted her to come back to him. Likewise, the Lord still loves his people who have gone astray, and he wants them to turn again to him.)
Elder Henry B. Eyring explained: “This was a love story. This was a story of a marriage covenant bound by love, by steadfast love. … The Lord, with whom I am blessed to have made covenants, loves me, and you, … with a steadfastness about which I continually marvel and which I want with all my heart to emulate” (Covenants and Sacrifice [address delivered at the Church Educational System Symposium, 15 Aug. 1995], 2).
What did the husband promise his wife if she would return to him? (See Hosea 2:19.) What does the Lord promise his people if they will repent and return to him? (See Hosea 2:20, 23.) Why is this promise important?
In Hosea 3:1–2, the husband purchased his wife from her lover (you may want to explain that in Old Testament cultures, women were often considered property and could be bought or sold). What did the husband require of his wife after he purchased her? (See Hosea 3:3.) What did he promise her? In what sense has Jesus Christ “bought” each of us? (See 1 Peter 1:18–19.) What does Christ require of us in return?
2. Because of his love for his people, the Lord continues to invite Israel to repent and return to him.
Throughout the book of Hosea, the Lord reproves the Israelites for their great sins. After the Lord, through Hosea, describes the captivity and destruction that will result from Israel’s wickedness, he again invites his people to repent and return to him.
Another similitude often used in the scriptures to describe the relationship between the Lord and his people is the master-animal relationship. This similitude is used briefly in Hosea 11:4. What do we learn about the Lord’s feelings for his people through this comparison? (See also Hosea 11:7–9. Note that the Joseph Smith Translation of verse 8 says “mine heart is turned toward thee” instead of “mine heart is turned within me.”)
Several times the Lord reminded the Israelites of how their ancestors were delivered out of captivity in Egypt (Hosea 11:1; 12:9, 13; 13:4–5). What might this event be a similitude of? (See Hosea 13:14. As the Lord delivered the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt, so will he deliver them—and all people who come unto him—from sin and death.)
What did the Israelites need to do to return to the Lord and receive deliverance? (See Hosea 12:6; 14:2–3. They needed to repent of their sins and renounce the other gods they had worshiped.) What did the Lord promise to do if they repented? (See Hosea 14:4–7.) What does the Lord promise he will do if we repent of our sins?
How do the similitudes in the book of Hosea help you understand how the Savior feels about you?
Testify that while the Lord’s blessings are reserved for those who keep his commandments, his love is constant and extended to all. Even when we turn away from him through sin, the Lord loves us and wants us to repent and return to him. Encourage class members to be faithful to the Lord.
Additional Teaching Ideas
The following material supplements the suggested lesson outline. You may want to use one or more of these ideas as part of the lesson.
1. “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6)
In Hosea 6:6 the Lord tells Israel, “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” During his earthly ministry, Christ twice referred to this verse to answer criticism from the Pharisees (Matthew 9:13; 12:7). After examining the context of these two references (Matthew 9:10–13; 12:1–8), discuss what this verse means.
2. “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself” (Hosea 13:9)
During Hosea’s ministry, the Northern Kingdom (Israel) was attacked by the Assyrians, who would eventually destroy the kingdom and take the people captive. In a literal sense the Assyrians were responsible for the destruction of Israel. But the Lord said, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself” (Hosea 13:9).
How can following Jesus Christ protect us from temporal and spiritual destruction?
If it is available, you may want to show “Repentance: It’s Never Too Late,” a six-minute segment from Family Home Evening Video Supplement 2 (53277).
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