Summary: God wants to be known personally, intimately, and vitally. He wants us to look to him with deep affection, and to depend on him always, because we know him. So foster that true commitment to God: listening to him, speaking with him, and walking with him.
Say you’ve met that “special someone.” It’s one you’ve come to love, it’s the one you want to marry. Probably we all can picture this very human event: meeting someone, falling in love, becoming husband and wife. There’s a lot of joy in this great gift!
But then something takes place that nobody wants to imagine. There’s unfaithfulness. Your spouse, with whom you made those promises of love and commitment, breaks the bond of marriage. And not just adultery once, and not just with one other person, but many times, and with many people! It’s unfaithfulness to the extreme.
Think for a moment of what you’ll do. According to God’s Word, you could ask for a divorce. Few would think less of you if you did. But you don’t. Instead, you take back your unfaithful spouse, and you renew your love. You forgive and seek restoration. By God’s grace you don’t let what’s happened bring the relationship to ruin. And your relationship survives, with a new and deeper joy.
Imagine the miracle of such a thing. And now consider how this is our story. It’s the story of God and his covenant people. It’s the tale of a wayward wife, but a faithful husband too, who amazingly keeps on loving. This story gets told by the first of the twelve so-called “minor prophets,” the prophet Hosea. He was told by the LORD exactly whom to marry. Not “a special someone” whom he met at school, or the nice girl that his parents had arranged. He has to marry Gomer, a prostitute.
And Hosea does. This was already asking a lot—the thought would’ve been appalling to anyone. Marry a prostitute! And it gets worse. When Gomer then returns to her ways of chasing men, God says that Hosea needs to take her back into his house, and love her again. Love the sinner, take back the offender.
Why such an incredibly difficult ministry? Why this kind of calling for the prophet? It’s because not just Hosea’s words, but his whole life, was to be a message for Israel—a message of how God so deeply loves his sinful people, despite all our sin. Hosea was to be a faint reflection of how the LORD himself keeps on forgiving and restoring, out of the abundance of his grace in Christ Jesus. This is our theme,
In love the LORD pursues Israel, his wayward bride:
1) with reminders of his past love
2) with expectations of her true commitment
3) with promises of an eternal covenant
1) with reminders of his past love: If you look at verse 13, and then verse 14, you’ll be struck by a great difference. In verse 13 the LORD says of Israel, “I will punish her for the days of the Baals… She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, and went after her lovers; but me she forgot.” The LORD is remembering what Israel had done in her unfaithfulness, and He is grieving the loss of what once was.
He grieves, because tying Israel and him together was that precious relationship called “covenant.” Since the days of Abraham, this was a permanent bond of love shared by the LORD and his people. Between them there were beautiful promises, and holy obligations.
Maybe you can see in that why marriage is also described as a “covenant” in the Bible. In many ways the marriage covenant is similar to what God has with us: there’s two sides who join in a bond of faithfulness to each other, and who make promises, for now and always. So though they’re not equals, and though it depends entirely on God’s initiative, the LORD and his people are “married,” committed to one another. There’d even been an official ceremony at Mt. Sinai, and there were outward reminders of commitment: like circumcision, and Passover.
But in verse 13 God says, “I will punish her.” Earlier in chapter 2, He’d spoken of stripping her naked, exposing her, and slaying her with thirst. If you read through Hosea this afternoon or this week, you’ll see that a lot of this book is about judgment.
Hosea saw the beginning of this punishment. The nation Israel, the northern tribes where the prophet was ministering, was being troubled by political turmoil, and social unrest. Kings kept getting assassinated, and the people had to pay an expensive tribute to nearby nations. God’s righteous curse had only begun, for there were still going to be invasions, massacres, and finally exile.
“So what had Israel done,” you ask, “to be treated like this? How could this husband treat his loved one with such anger?” We may celebrate God’s forgiving love, but we also have to remember that He deals with unfaithfulness. God doesn’t simply overlook our sin. And in Hosea’s time, Israel was overrun with idolatry and injustice, paganism and immorality.