Renewal and Restoration.

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me “My Husband,” and no longer will you call me “My Baal.” For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 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. – Hosea 2:14-20 ESV

The unfaithfulness of Israel was deserving of the punishment that God had prophesied against it. Their failure to love and obey Him would not be overlooked. And yet, God promised restoration. It is amazing how often we can read the Old Testament prophesies against Israel and Judah and concentrate only on the anger and wrath of God. If we are not careful, we can paint a one-dimensional image of God that makes Him out to be vengeful and prone to destruction. But as God shared with Hosea, He had something more in store for the nation of Israel than their devastating defeat to the Assyrians and their subsequent captivity. God offers them a word of good news, telling them of what would eventually follow their self-inflicted fall from God’s good graces. He announces through the prophet, Hosea, “in that day.” A day was coming when God would restore His wayward people to their original position as His chosen possession. “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal’” (Hosea 2:16 ESV). 

It is important to remember that God had told Hosea that his wife, Gomer, would bear him three children and then prove unfaithful to him as she turned to a life of prostitution. And Hosea was going to learn that his God-given responsibility would be to buy his wife back from a life of prostitution, forgiving and restoring her to her original place as his wife. All of this was going to visibly illustrate what was going to happen between God and the people of Israel “in that day.” When the time came, according to God’s divine plan, the people of Israel would once again call God “my husband.” In other words, the once broken relationship would be restored. Not because of anything Israel would do, but all because of the grace and mercy of God Himself. And instead of calling on Baal as their god, they would begin to recognize and honor God as their sole source of sustenance and the object of their worship and adoration.

God says, “I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth” (Hosea 2:17 ESV), and “I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground” (Hosea 2:18 ESV). He tells them, “I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land and I will make you lie down in safety” (Hosea 2:19 ESV). But there was more: “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” (Hosea 2:19-20 ESV). In spite of all that Israel had done to dishonor and disobey God, He would one day restore them and renew their relationship with Him.

But the most amazing promise God makes to the people of Israel is at the end of verse 20: “And you shall know the Lord.” There is a tone of intimacy in those words. This is not referring to mere intellectual knowledge, but to a close and personal relationship. The prophet, Jeremiah, told of this same great day.

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. – Jeremiah 31:31-34 ESV

All of this will be based on the initiative of God. It will have nothing to do with Israel’s earning of God’s mercy or grace. It will not be based on their future obedience or determination to repent of their sins and return to the Lord. From start to finish, this will be the work of God, done on behalf of the nations of Israel and Judah, and in spite of their years of rebellion and rejection of Him as their God and King. God’s unfailing love will one day be revealed in such a way that Israel, His unfaithful bride, will be restored by Him and given a second chance at experiencing His love, mercy and blessings.

Our God is a tender, loving, compassionate and forgiving God. He is always faithful. He never stops loving His children and He never fails to accomplish what He has started or fulfill what He has promised. God will not wait until Israel gets its act together and turns back to Him. He will be the instigator and originator of the restoration process, proving yet again His unfailing faithfulness.

Advertisements

When God Is Not Enough.

Say to your brothers, “You are my people,” and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.”

Plead with your mother, plead—for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband—that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts; lest I strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and make her like a parched land, and kill her with thirst.

Upon her children also I will have no mercy, because they are children of whoredom. For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, “I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.”

Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. Then she shall say,I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.”

And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal. Therefore I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season, and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness. Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall rescue her out of my hand. And I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts. And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees, of which she said, “These are my wages, which my lovers have given me.” I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall devour them. And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the Lord. – Hosea 2:1-13 ESV

The narrative suddenly moves from God giving directions to Hosea regarding his wife and children to His real purpose behind the book: His assessment of Israel’s faithfulness. The whole point in Hosea having marry a woman who would prove unfaithful to him was to illustrate the long-standing unfaithfulness of Israel to God. And God’s command for Hosea to give his children such odd and offensive names was to make a painful point to the people of Israel. Even as the prophet of God, Hosea was going to have an up-close and personal experience with what unfaithfulness really looked and felt like. His own wife would leave him for a life of prostitution, and every time he called his children by name, he would be reminded of this painful fact.

But God’s primary purpose was to communicate to Israel just how grieved and angry He was with their sin of apostasy. From the moment their nation had been formed, they had chosen to reject Him as God. Jeroboam had commanded the construction of his own gods – golden calves – so that the people would not be tempted to return to Jerusalem to worship. He even appointed his own priests and set up his own temples. And God was not pleased.

Verse one appears to be tied directly to the closing verses of chapter one, where God had foretold of the coming restoration of the entire nation of Israel. There was a day coming when He would once again bless Israel and restore them to their privileged position as His children. He would even restore the divided nation, making them one once again. “And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head” (Hosea 1:11 ESV). In that day, both Judah and Israel will be able to call each other brothers and claim to be God’s people. The names Hosea gave to his two children would no longer apply. This is a future-oriented prophecy dealing with the millennial kingdom of Christ, but because God is faithful, it is guaranteed to happen.

But until that day arrived, God would deal with Israel according to their sin as a nation. And God made it quite clear to Hosea how He viewed the nation. “But now bring charges against Israel—your mother—for she is no longer my wife, and I am no longer her husband. Tell her to remove the prostitute’s makeup from her face and the clothing that exposes her breasts” (Hosea 2:2 NLT). God was fed up. He had had enough. And the rest of the verses in this passage reflect just what God thought about the nation of Israel. They had been unfaithful to Him. Like a prostitute, they had thrown themselves at any god that had come along, including Baal, the god of the Canaanites. They had sought from false gods what they should have only expected to receive from the hand of God Almighty. In fact, God made it clear that it had been Him who had provided for her all along yet “she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold” (Hosea 2:8 ESV). And what had they done with all that God had given them? They had used it all to worship a false god. They had taken the blessings of God and used them to make offerings to a god who didn’t even exist.

Now God was going to remove His hand of blessing and protection from them, and they would find no relief from those gods to whom it had turned. Their destruction was coming. Spiritual unfaithfulness always has ramifications. We cannot abuse the grace and mercy of God repeatedly and not expect there to be consequences. Israel was taking its status as God’s chosen people for granted. They were treating His goodness with contempt. And we can do the same thing today. We can be guilty of taking the blessings of God – our talents, resources, gifts, etc. – and using them to “worship” and serve the gods of this world. Like Israel, we can end up turning to false gods rather than the one true God for our hope and help. Trusting in men, money, governments and other institutions rather than God will never provide us with that for which we are looking. God wanted Israel to love and trust Him. He wants us to turn to Him for all our needs. We are to be His people, living life according to His terms and in complete dependence upon His strength.