God Will…

And the Lord said to me, “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 love cakes of raisins.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days. – Hosea 3:1-5 ESV

Evidently, a fair amount of time had passed since chapter one. Gomer, Hosea’s wife, had left him and committed adultery, having been “loved by another man”. Not only that, she had become the property of that man, little more than his personal slave. Having rejected the love of Hosea, she had essentially sold herself off to another man in order to survive. Hosea had been forced to watch his wife, the mother of his three children, walk out on him and give herself to another man. There is little doubt that Hosea was better able to relate to the pain and anger that God felt toward Israel because of their unfaithfulness. Hosea had done nothing to deserve the treatment he had received from Gomer. He had been faithful. He had been loving. He had provided for her. But she had turned her back on him, choosing to give herself to someone else.

But God commanded Hosea to show her love once again. He was to seek her out and bring her home. Not only that, it was going to cost him to do so. He would be forced to buy her out of her slavery. And it’s interesting to note that the price her paid for her was very low because her life had become worthless. It was the equivalent of the price paid for a dead slave. Paul paints a very similar situation when speaking of what God has done for those whom He has redeemed from sin. “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins” (Colossians 2:13 NLT). He essentially said the same thing to the believers in Ephesus:

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:4-6 NLT

Hosea was going to have to buy Gomer out of dead-end life and there is no indication that she desired for him to do so. She was returning to him in remorse and repentance. She was not calling out to him in despair and dissatisfaction with her condition. This would all be Hosea’s doing. He would redeem her in spite of her. He would love her at a time when her love for him was non-existent. And God is using Hosea’s earthly relationship as an illustration of exactly what He was going to do for Israel.

Both Gomer and the people of Israel would have to go through a period of cleansing. Hosea would require Gomer to live with him for a certain length of time, during which she would not be able to seek out the affections or attention of another man. In the same way, Israel would go through a period of time when they would be unable to practice spiritual adultery against God. They would “dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods” (Hosea 3:4 ESV). After the Assyrians invaded the northern kingdom in 721 B.C., the Israelites would find themselves in captivity, unable to worship their false gods. They would have no king or kingdom. They would find themselves as little more than slaves, no longer able to commit the spiritual adultery they had before. Their condition would best be described as dead in their trespasses and sins.

And yet, just as Hosea was to do with Gomer, God would intervene. He would see to it that “the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days” (Hosea 3:5 ESV). After a period of time, God will restore Israel to their place as His children. But it will all be His doing. He will seek them out. He will restore them. He will reveal Himself to them. And He will shower His goodness on them.

The people of Israel are currently in this period of waiting. They have a kingdom, but no king. They have no temple and, therefore, no sacrificial system. They are no longer a theocracy, living under the leadership of God. But the day is coming when all that will change. God will faithfully restore them to their former condition, and Jesus Christ, the Messiah, will be their King and Lord. God’s plans for Israel are far from finished. He has much yet to accomplish on their behalf, and all that happens in the future will be as a result of His love, grace and mercy. He will love them in spite of them. He will restore them, not because they deserve it, but because He is faithful to keep His promises. That is the God we worship. He is loving, patient and kind. He is faithful. He keeps His promises. And He has a plan for this world that He is working out in His perfect timing. God will do what He has promised to do. He will finish what He has begun. He will fulfill His redemptive plan for Israel and for the church. We can count on it and rest in it.

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You Are My God.

And in that day I will answer, declares the Lord, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, “You are my people”; and he shall say, “You are my God.” – Hosea 2:21-23 ESV

Remember the three names that God commanded Hosea to give his children? His first son was to be named Jezreel, as a reminder of the sins of the Israelites committed in the Valley of Jezreel. His daughter was to be named Lo-ruhamah which means “no mercy”. His third child, a son, was to be named Lo-ammi, which means, “not my people”. As we have seen before, these names all held an important significance in God’s message that Hosea was to give to the people. His own family life was going to be a living testimony to the judgment, as well as, the love of God.

God was gracious to give Hosea a glimpse into the future so that the commands of the Lord regarding Gomer and their children would make sense. What God was telling Hosea to do  was not some arbitrary and unloving task designed to make his life difficult. It was meant to give the actions of God regarding the people of Israel an earthly and easy-to-understand picture of what was going to happen. And it was probably as much for Hosea’s sake as it was for the people of Israel.

God graciously informed Hosea about a day to come when He would renew and restore the people of Israel, but not because they would somehow deserve it. He would reach out and redeem them in spite of their spiritual adultery and unfaithfulness. And God told Hosea, “in that day…” He would do some pretty incredible things for the people of Israel, ultimately restoring them to their former position as His children. Even the land of promise, given to the people of Israel to Abraham by God would go through a physical transformation. God would bring about the miracle of agricultural rebirth. And it is interesting to note that Baal, one of the false gods that the people of Israel worshiped, was known as the Canaanite god of rain and fertility. What he had been unable to do for the people of Israel, God would do. This is where the names given to the children of Hosea come in. The name Jezreel meant “God will sow” and spoke of what God would do for the land of Israel “in that day”. The name Lo-ruhamah or No Mercy referred to God’s present attitude toward Israel, but God told Hosea that the day was coming when He would show mercy on No Mercy. The name Lo-ammi or Not My People, which was a reminder of the Israelites’ current status before God because of their sins, also plays an important role in God’s future plans for Israel’s restoration. He told Hosea, “I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’” (Hosea 2:23 ESV). In that day, things would be different. God would not only restore the Israelites to their former place of prominence as His people, He would make that relationship even better than it had been before. They would not just worship God out of duty, but out of delight. He would not just be another deity thrown in among their litany of false gods. He would be their one and only God. And they would say to Him, “You are my God” (Hosea 2:23 ESV).

There is a personal, intimate aspect to that phrase, “You are my God”. It conveys the idea of an up-close and personal relationship, in which God and His people enjoy unbroken and non-distracted community, free from unfaithfulness and idolatry. God would no longer have to compete for their attention and affection. He would be their only God. It is interesting to note that the apostle Paul used this very passage when speaking to the Gentile converts in the church in Rome.

As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” – Romans 9:25-26 ESV

Paul was not appropriating the prophecy of Hosea regarding the people of Israel and transferring it to the church, but he was simply using it to illustrate that God grace and mercy regarding all mankind is one and the same. Regarding the Gentiles or non-Jews, God takes those who were not His people (Jews) and makes them His children. He does this when they place their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior. When they do, He shows them mercy and He makes them sons and daughters of the living God, not because of anything they have done or any merit on their part. It is all due to the grace and goodness of God.

In terms of the immediate future for Israel, things were going to get worse before they got better. Their destruction was coming. God’s punishment on their sins was unavoidable and inevitable. But there was going to be a happy ending to the story. Why? Because God is the author of that story and He is loving, gracious, merciful and forever faithful. The story of redemption is a love story. It reveals the love of God towards a rebellious and unloving people, both Jews and Gentiles. While some people may rail against the judgment of God, they fail to recognize that any mercy shown to any human being is due to God’s love, not man’s merit. As the apostle Paul so succinctly said it, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV) and the punishment for that sin is death (Romans 6:23). No one is righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10). Everyone human being on the planet is living in opposition and rebellion to God and deserve His just judgment. But He graciously offers mercy and restoration through His Son. He provided a remedy to man’s deadly sin problem by sending His Son to die on man’s behalf. Jesus lived the life we could not live and died the death we deserved to die – so that we might have eternal life and be able to say, “You are my God”.