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.