The Gospel According to Hosea
God's Faithful Love, part 1
We are starting a new series, The Gospel According to Hosea, where we will be looking at God's faithful love for his unfaithful people. Let me start by telling you a bit about the background before we read the text. The book is divided into two sections, chapters one through three and four through fourteen. Hosea was a prophet at the latter end of fifty years of great peace and prosperity and military expansion under the reign of Jeroboam II. The prosperity and peace was not good for the spiritual climate of the nation who had become so spiritually bankrupt they were unrecognizable as the people of God. Yet they were so blinded to it that they were coasting along as nothing was wrong. It was in this context that Hosea calls Israel to return to God.
An Unusual Marriage
God tells Hosea to 'take a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom because the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.' Hosea is told to go find a wife, whose heart and life is characterized by whoring after men and have children with her who will bear the disgrace of their mother. Not a woman any of us men would dare bring home to mamma. She was a woman who would be characterized by marital unfaithfulness, not once, not twice, but as a way of life. Yet Hosea loves her and pursues her even after her unfaithfulness. God gives Hosea the reason for this unusual command in the latter half of verse two, “for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” The land represents the people, the culture, the leadership, and the institutions. Every aspect of the nation was characterized by great whoredom or spiritual unfaithfulness. Hosea's marriage is a picture of God's marriage to Israel who was unfaithful to the covenant God made with them. The Old Testament characterizes Israel's history as spiritually unfaithful from the very beginning. The first time they worshipped idols was right after God delivered them from Egypt. Israel, fresh from the miraculous deliverance is at Mount Sinai and Moses is up the mountain meeting with God. When Moses is late coming down the mountain Aaron, his right hand man, builds a golden calf and attributes their miraculous deliverance to a statue. How foolish is that – a lifeless image delivering them from Egypt!
Hosea's marriage covenant with Gomer pictures God's covenant with Israel. Hosea's faithful love for his unfaithful wife is a picture of God's faithful love to his unfaithful people. Marriage was always intended for a far grander purpose than our personal happiness. God created marriage to give the world a picture of God's covenantal love for his people, first with Israel and now with the church. Turn to Genesis 2:23-24. Because God created the woman for the man, he is to leave his family and cleave exclusively to his wife, abandoning the primary relationship he has known for life and unite himself to his wife for life. They become one flesh, an intimate bond that is not meant to be torn apart. The normal understanding of marriage demands faithfulness to the marriage covenant. With that understanding, you can see why spiritual unfaithfulness is a grievous offensive to God. It also helps us understand why God calls himself a jealous God. We normally think of jealousy in a negative light like when someone is jealous because of something we have and they want it or they dislike us for it. But there is also a beautifully biblical jealousy in marriage that protects the marriage relationship. I am jealous for Karen's love and affection and she for mine which motivates us to protect our marriage. We cultivate our marriage relationally, emotionally, and sexually so that our marriage stays healthy and vibrant. We also set boundaries in our lives to protect our marriage. That is a picture of God's jealousy in his relationship to his people. God's jealousy is his desire to protect the covenantal love relationship between himself and his people. Anytime we walk away from our faithfulness to God by violating his word (sinning) we violate the covenant and he is jealous for us. His anger is aroused in the same way a husband's anger is aroused when he finds his wife laying with her lover. God is so bent on protecting this covenant that he demanded that Israel not have anything to do with the nations around them but to destroy them. When they disobeyed God and became friendly with the other nations, they were led into whoredom over and over again. God warned them it would happen this way. If they made a treaty with another nation that was mutually beneficial, they would be invited to worship idols, then they would eat food sacrificed to idols, then they would inter-marry, and this would lead Israel to idolatry. What started as an agreement among friends ended with whoredom for Israel. They became so unrecognizable from the nations around them that they were no longer recognizable as the unique, covenantal people of God. Intermarriage did not lead to the corruption of Israel. Yet God, faithful and loving to an unfaithful and unloving people, went to such radical depths to bring Israel back to himself. God loved them despite their unfaithfulness and pursued them until they came to a place where they would repent and return to him. All because he made a choice to display his covenantal love to an unlovable people. He chose them from among the nations and chose to lavish his love and mercy on them knowing that they would continually be unfaithful. That is also true of us. You see Hosea's marriage to Gomer is also a picture of Christ and the church. Out of love he chose us to be his wife despite his knowing that we would be unfaithful. Out of love he died to secure us as his wife. Out of love he disciplines us to wean us off of our idols. If you are truly born again you cannot escape God's discipline. Christ took your judgement so you can take God's discipline. But if you are not truly born again you cannot escape God's final judgment for your sin. See Israel was the chosen people but individually they had to appropriate the covenant for themselves. John Calvin said that the human heart is an idol factory; an expert at inventing idols. Yet Christ lived a perfect life, died as a perfect sacrifice, to free us from our idols. What are the idols of your heart? Ask Christ to reveal them to you and free you from them.