Summary: This is from my expository series through the book of Romans.
November 2, 2008
Undoubtedly, it ranks as one of the strangest things that Scripture records God asking a person to do; it’s found in the second verse of the book of Hosea; allow me to paraphrase: God’s first word to the prophet Hosea was “go, marry a hooker”. Sort of outside the ole comfort zone there, isn’t it? A step or two beyond the pale? See, Israel was prostituting itself by forsaking God, running off after other lovers, as it were, and so in typical fashion for prophets, God used a “visual aid” to get His point across. Making matters worse, the woman was named Gomer; the images that conjures up are pretty gruesome, so we’ll be kind and pronounce it “GoMARE”, if you don’t mind. And if you read the rest of chapter 1, you find that they had kids, and God told them to name their daughter “No Mercy”, and their son, “Not My People”. Every time the kids were referred to, the people were reminded that God had every right to show no mercy to Israel, because His sinning people had forfeited the name, and were not behaving like His people. From a human viewpoint, this was an unfortunate marriage, but it was one that would be used by God to illustrate the grand theme of redemption.
Because you see, it wasn’t long before Gomer returned to her wandering ways; apparently, it wasn’t just the money she was after as she pursued lovers; her heart was wild and desired other men. Unfaithful Gomer again prostituted herself, selling herself to lecherous men, just as Israel committed spiritual adultery. Just as Israel as a nation had committed spiritual adultery, this wild mare had run off after lovers. Finally, probably due to debt, Gomer fell into slavery, and was to be auctioned off naked to the highest bidder, the absolute depth of shame.
And so when we look at Hosea 3, we find God giving another command to Hosea, saying, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods...” And so there, on public display in the capital city of Jerusalem, men began to bid for the wretch Gomer, eager to have her for their own slave, to satisfy their cravings.
“12 pieces of silver!”, one shouted.
“13”, said Hosea.
“14 pieces of silver!”
“15”, Hosea replied.
The low bidders began to drop out one by one, until another shouted,
“15 pieces of silver and 6 bushels of barley!”
“15 pieces of silver and 10 bushels of barley”, came Hosea’s bid.
Finally, the auctioneer searched the crowd, and with no higher bid forthcoming, he rang down the gavel. “Sold!” Hosea owned her now, having purchased her back from slavery. She was his property now, and he could have done any number of things with her. He could have her killed; he could have made her a public disgrace. Instead, Hosea puts her clothes back on her and leads her…home. His pledge to her is that despite her unfaithfulness, he would love her unconditionally. His only demand was her love in return for the ransom price. She had been shamed and was bound in slavery, with no hope of winning freedom, and yet she had been redeemed by the very one to whom she had been so utterly unfaithful.
If you get that picture, then most of the sermon is already preached, for the story of Hosea and Gomer is an illustration of God’s redeeming of lost sinners. Now, it’s important that we rightly understand this word “redeem”, or “redemption”. When I was a kid, my mom would collect S&H Green Stamps, and would redeem these stamps for merchandise. That’s not what Paul has in mind here. Rather,
Redemption: A Definition
“buying back out of slavery that which was bound”
We do hear of this happening today; in some African and Middle Eastern nations, freedom for slaves has been purchased by the payment of a price. But in a theological context, redemption is God at work, buying back that which is rightfully His own, and He does so in order, not to enslave us or to demand His pound of flesh, but that He might set us free. In fact, the Greek word implies just this, that not only has a ransom price been paid, but it has been paid to obtain the release of the one bound. And we see this terminology used frequently in the New Testament, either terms like “redeem” and “redemption”, or the idea of “ransom”; this is one of the key pictures of our salvation, as is that picture of justification.
Last week, we were in a courtroom as we considered the biblical picture of justification. Today, the scene shifts to the marketplace, from judicial proceedings to business transactions. And what has taken place in redemption is this: though I am a slave, “under sin”, I have been purchased and then set free! I want to look today at four things that are implied when we speak of ourselves as having been “redeemed” by God through Jesus Christ: