Intro: Last week we investigated the heinous action of Hosea’s unfaithful wife, Gomer, and by extension of His own prophecy, the sin of God’s wife, Israel. Like Gomer, Israel had played the harlot. The nation had acted shamefully and through covetousness, ingratitude, deceitful arrogance and disloyalty rejected Jehovah and worshipped the idol gods of its neighbors. Hosea exposed their treacherous deeds and pronounced the coming judgment on Israel.
The story of Hosea is filled with some obvious, but difficult questions. There are questions that flow from our understanding of both God and ourselves.
How could God ask the prophet to marry a prostitute? How could He demand that Hosea suffer the hurt involved in betrayal? (Causes some to reject a literal interpretation of the book)
How could Gomer do what she did? How could a reasonable woman who was loved and cared for by a devoted husband, leave a secure home to commit sin with other men, and eventually end up as a slave?
But the hardest and most profound question that this story elicits is found in Hosea 3:1 –3 Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.” Consider the NIV translation: “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” The question is this: How could a man who had been so hurt and betrayed by his wife, ever show love for her again?
I. Love and the Covenant: At the heart of Hosea’s message was the covenant between God and His chosen, Israel. A covenant always involved mutual obligations.
A. The covenant originating at Sinai was rooted in the obligations of the Law of Moses. God had never neglected His part (gave them peace, prosperity, fruitful seasons); but Israel had repeatedly and incessantly been unfaithful. Hosea 8:1 – “Put the trumpet to your lips! An eagle is over the house of the Lord because the people have broken my covenant and rebelled against my law. Hosea 8:12 – I have written for him the great things of My law, But they were considered a strange thing.
B. There are two pictures of that covenant in Hosea. a) The marriage covenant (chpt. 1-3) & b) a father and son relationship (11:1ff). Both of these figures aptly depict the unfaithfulness and rebellion of God’s people against Him. The reason these images are effective representations of God’s relationship with Israel is not just because they reflect the covenant arrangement, but also because they are relationships of love. God’s undying love is in full view in spite of the unfaithfulness of His people.
C. God’s love is always evident. But those who choose to sin discount the evidence of God’s love. Jump ahead to Hosea 11. The picture here is view of a father speaking to a son. (I like the NIV translation: Hosea 11:1-5 – “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2 But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. 3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. 4 I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them. 5 “Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent? (NIV)
1. Again, Hosea helps us see the emotion involved in spiritual rebellion. The son who refuses to honor the loving father, or even acknowledge who cared for him when he could not care for himself. The father’s heart is broken by such a lack of reciprocal love. The father rhetorically asks, “such a son must be punished, right?” (v. 5) The answer throughout is yes. Love demands it.
2. But wait. God’s love demands more… Hosea 11:8-9 – “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. 9 I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man — the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath. (NIV) Can you sympathize with the turmoil of God’s heart? Because He loves His people God can withhold the complete destruction which the cities of Admah and Zeboiim experienced along with Sodom and Gomorrah. He will not annihilate His people as they deserve. The emotions of the Father are stirred, and his compassion is aroused. After the coming judgment, God will choose to save a faithful remnant who will “follow the Lord”, and “come trembling” before Him. (v. 10-11)
II. Love and Redemption: Go back and read the rest of the story of Hosea and Gomer: Hosea 3:2-5 – So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley. 3 And I said to her, “You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man — so, too, will I be toward you.” 4 For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim. 5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days. I believe that these words return to the analogy of the personal story of Hosea and Israel. Gomer not only became unfaithful to her husband, but evidently she descended further into moral degradation, until she was a slave being sold at the marketplace. How would Hosea react? How did love respond?
A. vs. 2 – Despite her position, and the shame she had brought on her husband, he still loved her. So he bought her back for 15 shekels of silver and 1 ½ homers of barley. (couldn’t come up with the whole amount – he divested himself to pay the price?)
1. Scholars tell us that the value of the whole amount came to be about 30 shekels of silver, or the common price for a wounded slave. (note: Coffman connects this amount with the money given to Judas to betray the Lord, indicating the low esteem the Jewish leaders had for the life of Christ.) His love reacted with redemption. He wanted her back, and the only way was for him to pay the price.
2. The picture of God redeeming his people is seen often in the OT. (33 times in the O.T.; Isaiah alludes to it 18 times). But the act of true redemption for Israel (and all men) was through Christ’s blood. Eph 1:7 – In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. Later Paul states that this was done “because of the great love with which He loved us. (Eph. 2:4)
B. vs. 3-4 – But her redemption and restoration is not without conditions. She must prove herself to be faithful again through repentance and going through a period of abstinence – even with Hosea himself. This prophesied period of isolation and detention pointed to the coming time of Assyrian capture and deportation, and then later to Babylon, when the northern tribes would be without the resources or ability to worship their gods. Israel was to be exiled to foreign countries, ruled by foreign kings, surrounded by foreign worship, and unable to function as an independent nation. This discipline was the work of God’s love for her. It was designed to bring her back as His wife. In chapter 3:16-25 Hosea of a time when God would lead Israel into the wilderness and “woo” (allure) her back to Him by speaking comfort to her.
1. After a long period of silence between the testaments, one came in the power and spirit of Elijah and preached repentance to turn the children to the fathers and the fathers to the children. (Mal. 4:5)
C. vs. 5 – “Afterward…” The term “afterwards”, and “the latter days” point to the period of the Messiah. These “latter days” of the Messiah were introduced through the preaching of repentance by both Jesus and John. (Matt. 3&4). Homer Hailey states… This would be “in the latter days,” which identifies the promise as looking to the present dispensation. The “David” of the passage is David’s illustrious descendant, Jesus the Christ.
1. The Israelite who would seek the Lord again in these days is later described in the N.T. as a “Jew inwardly” with a circumcision, not of the flesh, but of the heart. (Romans 2:28-29) The hope of the Jewish nation rested upon the coming of Christ and their willingness to trust and obey Him. The Gospel was the message of that hope that called Israel (and all men) back to God. Paul makes it clear that both Jew and Gentile would be saved in exactly the same way, through faith in Christ. Gal 3:26-29 – For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
2. The return of Israel, as promised through Hosea, is not a return of the nation to Palestine. It is a return which is defined as seeking the Lord, the repentant return of the sinner to God. It is a turning to God in trembling because of one’s sin, yet trusting in the goodness and loving-kindness of God. The knowledge of His goodness overcomes their fears and doubts, so that trustingly they cast themselves into the arms of Him who has loved them with an everlasting and redeeming love.
3. The prophet Zacharias at the birth of his son, John, the baptizer, spoke of the fulfillment of Hosea’s words like this… Luke 1:68-72 – Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, 69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David, 70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began, 71 That we should be saved from our enemies And from the hand of all who hate us, 72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant,
4. Even the symbolic images of the revelation of John point back to Hosea’s message of redeeming love in Rev. 14:3-4, as he described the saved as.. Redeemed ones around the throne – pure virgins, not defiled, redeemed from among men, following the lamb wherever he goes.
Conclusion: How could He do it? How could Hosea love Gomer after all she did to him? How could God love me after all the times I have sinned against Him? But alas, He has redeemed me through the cross.
- Parable of a holy man who went to the riverbank to pray. As he was praying he noticed a large tree branch that extended out into the water, and a scorpion was caught in the fork of the branch and about to drown. He reached down to rescue it, but each time the scorpion would strike at his hand. A passerby saw what was happening, and remarked, Don’t you know that’s a scorpion and it is the nature of a scorpion to sting?” The old man replied, “that may well be, but it is my nature to want to save. And must I change my nature because the scorpion does not change his?” Do you understand that God’s nature will not allow him to abandon those who are lost without trying to save them.
- Karl Barth, the celebrated theologian, was once asked, “What is the greatest thought that has ever passed through your mind?” After a long thought, he answered with elegance and power, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.” Do you know a more profound thought than this one?