Summary: The contrast between God’s love for us and the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. a grave warning against syncretism and coming judgment.
How well do you know God?
I remember seeing a programme on television once where an old man through tear stained eyes spoke of his love for his wife. What became apparent over time was that she had left him on many occasions and led a quite decadent and immoral life. Yet each time he searched her out and brought her home, even travelling great distances to do so. In the story he tells how she died as a result of the lifestyle she had lived and his last words were still of his deep love for her and that he did everything he could each time to bring her home because he had made his vows before God. I sat there truly amazed and deeply moved by this man as he told his story. If you turn with me to Hosea 3 verse 1 we encounter Hosea about to embark on just such a journey with Gomer.
Verse 1- God tells Hosea to go and bring Gomer home. Hosea is commanded to go and love Gomer again, even though she has led a desolate life and is presently with another man. Note will you that Gomer at this point is called ‘woman’ and not ‘wife’ – emphasising the distance and estrangement in the relationship between Hosea and her at this moment. In the second half of the verse God gives Hosea the reason for this action. He is to love Gomer in the same way that God loves the people of Israel. Just as Gomer had turned to other lovers and committed adultery so the people of God had turned to other gods and committed spiritual adultery. The people of Israel loved the ‘raisin cakes’ which were delicacies of the day and were used in the cultic worship of Baal. God had given them spiritual food but they preferred the ‘delicacies’ of pagan worship and sin. Hosea obeys the divine command and goes to love Gomer again.
Verse 2 – Hosea buys back his wife. She had become the property of another and the price he paid, when you add up the shekels and the barley, comes to 30 shekels of silver. 30 shekels of silver was the price of a slave. Gomer, maybe through the decadence of her lifestyle, was valued at the price of a slave. In this we see where her sinful waywardness has led – into slavery, as all sin does. Hosea pays the price of a slave to buy back what is rightfully his in the first place. Is that not a wonderful picture of love for his wife? Is that not also a picture in the OT of what God in Christ would do for us on the cross? He paid the ransom, bought us back with his own blood, for what was rightfully His in the first place.
Verse 3 – again we see in the words of Hosea that it is not a sentimental love which motivates him and his actions towards Gomer. His love for her is not blind to her sin. He does not ignore how she has lived in the past but wants her to change in the future. He loves her enough to want her to change. He tells her that she must leave the past life of prostitution behind her. She cannot come back with him and live as she has been living. She must live a celibate life. I find it interesting that Hosea tells Gomer that she must be celibate, even from him. Why? Think about it for a moment. The physical act of love had become meaningless to Gomer. It had become a matter of commerce to her. Her relationship with Hosea was not to be a matter of commerce and so the physical side of their marriage needed to be restored to its rightful place and that is why Hosea speaks as he does.
Verse 4 – God now speaks of how this will be a reflection of Israel’s relationship with Him. This will be marked by three things;
1. Israel without autonomous rule – king or prince
2. No religious ceremonies – without sacrifice or sacred stones.
3. without any means of knowing the future – ephod/idol
In these three things we see how the people of God will be left destitute and abandoned by God. In these three things we see how everything in the life of Israel has been touched and corrupted by pagan worship and immorality. Even the things of God have been corrupted by the way they have been living and behaving. In removing all of these from the life of Israel God is showing that there needs to be a clean break from the past and that the separation needs to be long enough and deep enough that they will not go back to the old ways of living. God wants a complete break with the past so that a new beginning can happen. Friends learn the spiritual lesson there in your life and my life. Old habits, old lifestyles, old relationships, whatever it is that led us into sin, not only needs to be repented of but separated from if a new beginning in and with Christ is to occur. Remember that lesson this morning, take it on board and do something about it. There are things in all our lives that we need to separate from and not just for a few hours or a few days but for a long period so that their power over us wanes and dies. For some this morning you know exactly at this moment what God is saying in your life needs to be separated from. There is a struggle going on for your eternal soul right at this moment and you need to take this on board this morning.