Summary: The Gospel According to Hosea Wooed in the Wilderness, part 3
The Gospel According to Hosea
Wooed in the Wilderness, part 3
We are in our third message of our summer series, The Gospel According to Hosea, looking at God's faithful love for an unfaithful people. Blind to their own spiritual bankruptcy, Israel was coasting along as though nothing was wrong yet God, faithful and loving husband, pursued them despite their continued wanton wandering. The chapter is divided into three sections. God appeals to Israel to come back to him; then three therefore's, the first two, describe God's discipline; and the third therefore, describes God enticing Israel back to himself.
1. God Appeals to His People to Return (vs. 2-5)
Here is a picture of children pleading with their mother to turn from her whoring ways. We have seen that the language of spiritual adultery, whoredom, is used to describe Israel's idolatry because God's relationship to his people is described in terms of a marriage covenant. An idol is anything that absorbs our hearts and imaginations more than God. Idolatry describes the drift of the human heart away from God being the center. Israel's fundamental problem, our fundamental problem, is that our hearts drift toward idolatry. The book of Hosea tells us that we are wired to be lovers and we have the bent to love something or someone more than God. The human heart takes the good things of life like careers, romantic love, a spouse, children, possessions, and turns them into ultimate things. The heart deifies them as central to our lives, thinking they can give us significance and security and safety and fulfillment if we attain them. And those lovers always betray us and can only bring bring temporary joy and satisfaction.
Yet God relentlessly pursues his people. That is the nature of covenantal love. Contrary to how we choose spouses, God chose Israel not because she was beautiful, prosperous, lovely, but just the opposite, Israel was homely, poor, and insignificant. God's love for Israel is described as a husband and wife and as a Father to a child. In both relationships God chose them despite their homeliness and despite knowing that they would be described as both an unfaithful wife and a stubborn and stiff necked child. Yet he chose them anyway. That is the love of God toward his people, including you and me. So because Israel, his wife, is not responsive to his please he goes one step further.
2. God Disciplines His People to Get them to Return (vs. 6-13)
Because she will not tun back to him God will discipline her by obstructing her. Notice all the 'I will's.' God says something will happen because God makes it happen. He hedges her in so she cannot find her path. Resistant to God's discipline, Israel tries harder to get what she wants but all her attempts are frustrated and futile. God's discipline is always loving and gracious. It is as though God is saying, 'I love you so much I am going to do whatever it takes to bring you back to me.
Then she finally gets to the place where she realizes how much better it was at home with her husband. She is described as not knowing that it was God had always provided for her, not Baal. The road to spiritual blindness is slow and gradual and deceptive.
First God obstructed her way, then he impoverished her. He brings about economic hardship and takes her into captivity; when nations were deported and taken into captivity they were often stripped naked to shame and humiliate them. No one will stop God; no one will rescue them out of his hand. He will put an end to her religious festivals as they have become so Baalized by syncretism that they no longer resemble the festivals he prescribed so he labels them hers. He will have nothing to do with them! Here is the sad irony. Israel was unfaithful to their covenant, but still faithful to the covenant practices! Blind to her spiritual bankruptcy, coasting along as nothing was wrong, yet everything was wrong and would come crashing down upon them.
3. God Woo's His People to Win their Loyalty (vs. 6-13)
God, the spurned husband, entices her to come back. This word means to persuade to overcome every resistance people have against him. God loves his people no matter what; God loves us no matter what. Listen to the language of courtship, “I will bring her to the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” He does not stop there but lavishes gifts upon her, “and there I will give her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.” This enticing will be so irresistible, it overcomes her unfaithfulness so that her love will become undivided, purified, she 'will call him my husband again because God will remove the names of Baals form her mouth, to be remembered no more.' What does this mean? Scripture tells us that out of the heart the mouth speaks, so God must give Israel a change of heart, specifically a new heart. He will make a covenant on that day which is described as being betrothed to God. The central elements of that covenant are found in verses nineteen and twenty. “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” I want to focus upon one word here, righteousness. Israel was a wanton people who would not, who could, not meet the demands of the law so God sent an Israelite who would, who could, meet the demands of the law. Where Israel failed; Jesus was perfect. Israel was tested in the wilderness for forty years and failed; Jesus was tested in the wilderness for 40 days and passed. Israel made sacrifices for their sin, Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for your sins. Israel was isolated and suffered for their sin; Jesus was isolated and suffered for our sin. Israel produced children of whoredom; Jesus produces children of righteousness. When Jesus died on the cross, our sin was imputed to him and his righteousness was imputed to us. All this is the blessing of the new covenant and all this because he loves you.