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.