Originally posted Feb 10, 2014. Video from July 25, 2018, courtesy of one our shepherds at Warner Robins, Brother Dave Domingue. Fast forward to 20:00 minutes for the lesson on Hosea.
From year to year, heart disease and cancer rank as the leading causes of adult deaths, and the same is true spiritually. Sin affects the heart both first and most fully, and once one’s heart is turned, the infection continues to spread (2Th 2:9-12; 2Ti 2:16-18). As Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9 ESV; see our first post for Works Cited). Jesus himself later elaborates on these thoughts: “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23). This was Israel’s real problem: her adultery (spiritual and physical), her oppression of the poor, her rejection of the Law, her false worship, her fallen defenses—all could be traced back to her heart problems. In the next section of his prophecy, Hosea therefore diagnoses the root of Israel’s sins.
Hearts of Passion. In an age of hedonism like our own, it is not surprising that a life of pleasure is the first step toward habitual unfaithfulness. As Americans we practically cut our teeth on immodest dress, lewd behavior, premarital and extramarital sex, and are now confronted with a variety of sexual aberrations beyond even these. Unfortunately, Hosea finds these same sins among God’s people: “They are all adulterers; they are like a heated oven whose baker ceases to stir the fire, from the kneading of the dough until it is leavened. . . . For with hearts like an oven they approach their intrigue; all night their anger smolders; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire. All of them are hot as an oven” (Hos 4:4-7). The ESVSB unpacks the prophet’s language well, noting the progression of their passion: at first it is quiet, then repressed, but it ultimately consumes those who play with its fire.
Passions, of course, vary from person to person. Some are natural and should be tempered by wisdom and self-control (1Co 7:36; 1Ti 5:11; 2Ti 2:22). Others are unnatural and can only be conquered through a lifetime of grace and submission (Rom 1:26-27; 1Co 6:9-11). But in either case, passions wage war against our souls, our minds and our brethren (1Pe 2:11; Eph 2:3; Jam 4:1). And because of this constant internal pressure, we are at times led astray from our Lord to both physical and spiritual death (1Th 4:5; 2Ti 3:6; Rom 7:5). For this reason, God calls us to turn away from our passions in defiance, to nail them to the cross of Christ, and to kill the sin within us (Rom 6:12; Gal 5:24; Col 3:5), reminding us of the redemption he has purchased at so great a cost: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Tit 2:11-12).
Hearts of Pride. Those who have witnessed the tragic departure of a brother or sister in Christ know that pride follows passion. Once a soul has succumbed to its own desires, it has substituted its own will for God’s; and when we reject God’s will for our lives we have rejected his plan to save us (1Pe 4:2; Heb 10:36; 1Jo 2:17). Unfortunately, the pride that leads us astray is the same pride that keeps us away, and so we seek consolation and strength elsewhere. The Israelites demonstrate this well: “Ephraim mixes himself with the peoples; Ephraim is a cake not turned” (Hos 7:8). While we continue in sin, our religion lacks its main ingredient—true devotion to God—leaving our faith half-baked and therefore good for nothing.
But pride brings us no strength at all; in fact, it is a sign of weakness. As Solomon reminds us, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Pro 16:18). Hosea therefore points out the irony of boastful rebellion to God: “Strangers devour his strength, and he knows it not; gray hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not. The pride of Israel testifies to his face; yet they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him, for all this” (Hos 7:9-10). Israel was not the young man he used to be; his strength was failing and his hair was getting grayer, but he failed to see this for what it was. God would break their pride; if they would not humble themselves, he would humiliate them. As James reminds us, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” therefore, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (Jam 4:6-10).
Hearts of Lies. There is simply no subsitute for the holy word of God. So when we reject it, we reject any hope of knowing him as Creator and Redeemer. After several disciples left Jesus because of the boldness of his testimony, “Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68). Israel, however, gave the opposite response, and instead tried to fly the coop: “Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense, calling to Egypt, going to Assyria. As they go, I will spread over them my net; I will bring them down like birds of the heavens; I will discipline them according to the report made to their congregation” (Hos 7:11-12).
They were leaving the God who redeemed them for the very places he had redeemed them from and would sell them to! So while Yahweh stood ready to save, Israel’s impenitence forced him to judge: “Woe to them, for they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, for they have rebelled against me! I would redeem them, but they speak lies against me” (7:13). As Mays notes, “The God of the Exodus is unchanged in His will, but because of Israel’s lies there will be no ‘exodus’ from the Assyrian danger” (in the BKC). When you live a lie, you can’t possibly be saved by the God of truth.
Hearts of Idolatry. Hosea completes his cycle of metaphors by confronting the most blatant transgression of all: Israel’s worship of Baal. Deep down they realized they had gotten something wrong. They longed for the good ol’ days, but they hadn’t the faintest idea how to get them back (see Jer 6:16). Their own passions and pride prevented them from seeing that blessings flow from truth, and truth from God. “They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds; for grain and wine they gash themselves; they rebel against me. . . . They return, but not to the Most High” (Hos 7:14-16; see ESV margin). Like the false prophets on Mount Carmel, though, Israel’s gods would be asleep or on their porcelain thrones; in either case unable to help them (see 1Ki 18:26-29).
Of course, most people these days know that “an idol has no real existence” (1Co 8:4), but they are just as likely to be blind to the idols they have erected in their own lives. You don’t have to pray to silver and gold to allow something to come between you and your God (but see Mat 6:24, 33). As Paul asks, then, “What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people’” (2Co 6:16). We must therefore turn “to God from idols to serve the living and true God,” accepting the apostolic testimony “not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1Th 1:9; 2:13).
When our hearts aren’t right with God, any attempt at religion will backfire. Hearts of passion, pride, lies and idolatry cannot cultivate a faith of love, humility, truth and praise. Like a bad bow, Israel could not be trusted to shoot without missing the mark and harming the shooter (Hos 7:16). And because of this, they were nowhere near true faithfulness. As Christ himself quotes Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Mat 15:8-9). It is time to start living by our confession, to start worshipping according to his word, and to start teaching what he has revealed. Because when we respond to God in true repentance and faith, we open ourselves to the radical redemption he offers, a heart surgery only he can perform: “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Eze 11:19; see 18:31; 36:26).
Originally posted Jan 27, 2014. Video from July 18, 2018.
Many people treat religion like some sort of game. There are rules to abide by, plays to be made, points to be scored and champions to be crowned. Of course, in some ways the analogy can be a positive one: we do run a race, there is a prize, we do have rules we must follow, and we will either be crowned as champions or fail to finish (1Co 9:24-27). But on another level, playing at religion is the deadliest game that can be played. As Christ himself said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mat 7:21 ESV; see our first post for Works Cited). Many religious people can say the right words or do the right things, but do so out of either habit or insincerity, in either case failing to truly know the Lord and his will (Mat 7:22-23). In the same way, Israel was playing hide and seek with God. Hosea brings this pattern to the forefront in the next two chapters of his work to point out three reasons not to play at religion.
First: You can run, but you can’t hide. This should seem obvious to any believer. We “serve the living and true God” (1Th 1:9), the Great I AM (Exo 3:13-15), who is everywhere, knows everything and can do anything (Psa 139). And yet we deny these truths almost daily: the white lie, the raunchy profile pic, the hateful thought—all of which point to the real problem: the filthy heart (Mark 7:21-23). But the part of ourselves that we view as hidden away, or that we refuse to look at, is the very thing God looks at most closely (1Sa 16:7; Mat 5:21-48). Yahweh thus reminds Israel of this truth: “I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hidden from me; for now, O Ephraim, you have played the whore; Israel is defiled. Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. For the spirit of whoredom is within them, and they know not the LORD” (Hos 5:3-4, emphasis added).
So while Israel had forgotten her Creator, God could not ignore the sin of his people. As we’ve seen already, their sin was not a onetime lapse in judgment; it had become a way of life: “And the revolters have gone deep into slaughter;” “Gilead is a city of evildoers, tracked with blood. As robbers lie in wait for a man, so the priests band together; they murder on the way to Shechem; they commit villainy” (5:2; 6:8-9). Out of pride and self-seeking, precept became tradition, tradition became opinion, and opinions don’t bind anyone, so “like Adam they transgressed the covenant” (6:7; see 5:5). And such flagrant violations of the Lord’s will could not be hidden from God. As Moses said centuries before, “if you . . . have sinned against the LORD . . . be sure your sin will find you out” (Num 32:23; see too Ecc 12:14; Rom 2:14-16). So since they had replaced God’s law with man’s opinions, God’s people would stagger as he struck them; they would reel under the weight of his hand (5:5).
Second: You can seek, but you won’t find. The prophet’s tone becomes even more ironic in the next two verses: “With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the LORD, but they will not find him; he has withdrawn from them. They have dealt faithlessly with the LORD; for they have borne alien children. Now the new moon shall devour them with their fields” (Hos 5:6-7, emphasis added). Amazingly, while Israel knowingly worshipped the Baals through illegitimate priests, they still claimed to worship Jehovah! Then again, maybe it’s not so surprising. After all, don’t we betray God in the same ways? Don’t we mistreat others and then try to seek the Lord in worship (5:10; Deu 19:14)? Don’t we welcome the doctrines and disciples of man with open arms (Hos 5:11)? Don’t we say our prayers, sing our songs, and crack open our check books with the fervor of a dead man?
But Yahweh doesn’t just want our worship, he wants us to listen (1Sa 15:22-23); he doesn’t want what he’s commanded for its own sake, he wants our humble gratitude (Psa 50:6-8; 51:16-17); he doesn’t just want us to pray with others, he wants us to be the answer to those prayers (Isa 1:12-17). Jehovah roots true worship in the heart of devotion: “Your love [Hebrew hesed] is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away. . . . For I desire steadfast love [hesed] and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hos 6:4-6; see Mic 6:6-8 and the NET notes). So when we seek God in worship without preparing ourselves spiritually and morally, we do not find the Lord because he is not there. And as the NBC points out, “If God’s presence is terrifying, his absence is worse.”
And finally: You can’t find healing till you confess to the Healer. Reading the last point, you were probably thinking about Matthew 7:7: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (emphasis added). God, of course, saves those who call on him humbly through baptism (Acts 2:21; 22:16; 1Pe 3:21), and he desires that all men accept this call (1Ti 2:4; 2Pe 3:9). But with each of these promises there is also a precept: ask, seek and knock; arise, be baptized and be washed; trust in the resurrection and appeal to God; know the truth and repent. In other words, you can’t put forgiveness before repentance. To think of God saving an impenitent sinner is to deny the holiness and love of God and to trample the Son of God underfoot (1Pe 1:14-21; Heb 10:29). As one of Hosea’s contemporaries wrote, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isa 59:1-2, emphasis added).
It was for this reason God had turned away from his bride; not because she wouldn’t want saving, and much less that he didn’t want to save her! But because they sought their healing elsewhere: “When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria, and sent to the great king. But he is not able to cure you or heal your wound” (Hos 5:13, emphasis added). All the armies of Assyria could not save Israel from the punishment that would befall her; in fact, they would lead the charge (see the ESVSB and NET notes)! So instead of seeking true deliverance through their Savior, Israel would suffer his wrath (5:14; 6:5). As painful as this would be for both them and him, the Lord’s purpose was still to redeem his bride through repentance. As Ralph McKay pointed out recently, though God has prepared plans for his people, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11), this would only come to be after seventy years in exile (29:10), and only then because the people would seek the Lord in repentance (29:12-14). As Hosea himself then implores:
Come, let us return to the LORD;
It’s time to stop playing hide and seek with God. We have to stop hiding our sins, because he sees them (1Jo 1:6-9). We have to stop our casual will worship and get back to the heart of praise (Col 2). We have to stop playing at religion and turn to God in true repentance. Because until then, God is hiding from us: “I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me” (Hos 5:15, emphasis added). If you’ve left the body of Christ, now is the time to return. If you’re showing up to worship in body but not in spirit, now is the time to get real. And if you’re tired of trusting in yourself, now is the time to submit. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (Jam 4:7-8).
Originally posted Jan 20, 2014. Video from July 11, 2018.
Leaders are often under-appreciated by their followers and over-appreciated by themselves, and this plays out in numerous ways in our society. We often expect the world out of our presidents, our coaches and our bosses, and then when they fail to meet our unrealistic expectations we make light of their work, call for their dismissal, or make things difficult for them. There is, of course, a degree of truth to this. As John Maxwell often points out, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” This doesn’t mean that good leaders alone make for a safe and prosperous nation, a winning team or a good quarter. But of all the many contributing factors and people, leaders have the greatest influence on the final outcome.
This is true spiritually as well. God doesn’t only outline the responsibilities of our leaders, he points out their qualifications, he equips and empowers them to lead well, and he teaches us how to hold them accountable (see Eph 4:7-16 and almost all of 1Ti). It is also true at home, where the faithfulness of the father is the greatest indicator to future faithfulness in his children (Eph 6:4). It is for this reason that when there is a problem at home, at church, at work or in our communities we look to leaders first. Such was also the case for ancient Israel, so Hosea (like the other prophets and even Christ himself) saves his harshest words for Israel’s kings, priests and prophets. We’ll turn our attention now, then, to three reasons Israel’s leaders would soon be judged.
Reason #1: They fed on the flock. Spiritual nourishment is the first task of spiritual leadership. Each gospel writer closes his account reinforcing this truth: leaders spread the gospel, lead people to faith and repentance, baptize others for the forgiveness of their sins, and then build them up to keep Christ’s commandments (Mat 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49). John’s account is even more vivid, recounting Jesus’ charge to Peter: “Feed my lambs. . . . Tend my sheep. . . . Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-19 ESV; see our first post for Works Cited). Elders are therefore called to emulate the same depth of leadership shown by God, David, Jesus and Peter (Psa 23; 1Sa 17:31-37; John 10:1-21; 1Pe 5:1-4).
Israel’s religious elite, though, failed to uphold this divine pattern. As Hosea says, “Yet let no one contend, and let none accuse, for with you is my contention, O priest. You shall stumble by day; the prophet also shall stumble with you by night; and I will destroy your mother” (Hos 4:4-5, emphasis added; compare the BHS, NET and NBC notes). Israel’s leaders loved their titles, but were derelict in their duties. They were so busy trying to keep their jobs that they were no longer doing their jobs. They, of course, kept up appearances, but they encouraged religion for the wrong reason: so they could eat (4:8)! They turned the means of ministry into its end, serving the god of their belly rather than the God above (Php 3:9; Rom 16:17-18). So, “The more they increased, the more they sinned,” but God promised to “change their glory into shame” (Hos 4:7). They would be reminded that their responsibility was to serve, not be served; to feed the flock, not to feed on it (Mark 10:42-45).
Reason #2: They exploited ignorance. While the leaders were gorging on the people’s sacrifices, the people were starving spiritually. In perhaps the most quoted verse in Hosea, the prophet writes, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hos 4:6). The chief fault of Israel’s spiritual leadership was that they had rejected true knowledge as revealed in the Mosaic covenant and substituted for it their own manmade religion. Verse 2 therefore compares Israel’s sins with the ideal of faithfulness as revealed in the Ten Commandments (Exo 20:1-17), and finds her lacking on every point: “swearing, lying, murder, stealing and committing adultery . . . bloodshed follows bloodshed.” The only surprise here is that Israel’s leaders didn’t see it coming:
At first the residents of the northern kingdom continued to worship God, even though they were doing it in the wrong way; but very soon they also began to worship Canaanite gods. Before long they had substituted Baal for God and no longer worshiped God at all. It is not surprising that Jeroboam’s false priests were unable to preserve the true worship of God. (LASB; see too Deu 12:8-14; 1Ki 12:26-30)
Because Israel had rejected a deep, personal knowledge of God and his will, God says he will remove her status as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exo 19:6). As Theodore of Mopsuestia paraphrases verse 6, “My people are like a priest who is compromised. He has fallen from his previous dignity and does not appear worthy for any reason” (Commentary on Hosea 4). God will therefore punish accordingly: “like people, like priest” (Hos 4:9). They too worshipped their bellies, so they too would starve: “They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the whore, but not multiply, because they have forsaken the LORD to cherish whoredom, wine, and new wine, which take away the understanding” (4:9-12; compare the NET and NASB notes). Rather than building up the kingdom of God, these self-appointed priests were building their own kingdoms, exploiting the ignorance of the people rather than correcting it.
Reason #3: Their bad influence spread down and out. Bad leadership leads to ignorance of God among one’s followers and beyond. When elders, preachers and teachers turn from sound (literally healthy) doctrine, there’s no end to the diseases that will break out. You can hear the ironic tone in Hosea’s rant: “My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles” (4:12, emphasis added). Because of this they left the authorized worship of the temple for the strange fire offered “on the tops of the mountains . . . on the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth” (4:13; see Lev 10:1-2). Nor should we expect God to save us from the second and third order effects of our sins, or to support our cause: “Therefore your daughters play the whore, and your brides commit adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore, nor your brides when they commit adultery; for the men themselves go aside with [whores] and sacrifice with cult prostitutes” (Hos 4:13-14). When you stand apart from God, you face the problems of this world without your only true shield.
Israel was not alone in her sins, though, at least not for long. Just as error in one congregation spreads to others, Judah soon followed her sister into sin. For this reason, the prophet warns the southern kingdom as well: “Though you play the whore, O Israel, let not Judah become guilty. Enter not into Gilgal, nor go up to Beth-aven, and swear not, ‘As the LORD lives’” (4:15). Since the calves of Dan and Bethel had changed the house of a God (Hebrew Beth-El, Gen 28:19) into a house of Evil (Hebrew Beth-aven), Judah is warned not to renew her covenant with Israel at Gilgal, “where Israel circumcised the new generation, observed the Passover, and where they camped when they marched around Jericho seven days (Josh. 4:19; 5:10; 6:1-14)” (ESVSB). Like people, like priest; and sister like sister.
Failed leadership brings false teaching, false discipleship and false worship. Though both Israel and Judah had been warned, neither listened, becoming instead like the very things they worshipped: “Like a stubborn heifer, Israel is stubborn” (Hos 4:16). So while they chose and rejected their leaders at will, they would be leaderless and without protection, “Like a lamb in a broad pasture.” Though much has changed since the days of Hosea, human nature has not, nor has God’s expectations for his chosen leaders. The church of our Lord needs leaders who teach his word boldly, patiently and in truth (Tit 1:9-2:1; 2Ti 2:24-26). Leaders who point us beyond ourselves and to the God who speaks to us (2Ti 3:16-17). And leaders who rebuke us when we turn from what he has said (Mat 15:7-9; Col 2:16-23). May God be praised that we have many leaders who do so today! And may we continually be a blessing to them—praying for them, submitting to them, and following their example (Heb 13:7, 17).
Originally posted Jan 13, 2014. Video from June 27, 2018.
Identifying broken families, broken communities and broken hearts is much easier than healing them. Humanity has, of course, tried—through manmade religions, philosophies and even technology! But while these remedies often help us address some of the symptoms and consequences of our brokenness, they don’t (and can’t) address the actual problem: sin. Sin can’t merely be worshipped away, willed away or medicated out of the human heart. We need radical redemption, a dramatic deliverance, an open heart surgery. I’m not a fan of the word radical; it reeks of upheaval, pride and cynicism. But when used to describe God’s saving work the Lord is perhaps the most thoroughgoing radical of all! Hosea reminds us of this through his own example of redemption and reconciliation, and points to its significance for the Lord’s bride.
Redemption starts with radical love. Several aspects of biblical teaching are truly mysterious, like eternity, the Trinity and God’s providence. But nothing is so hard to comprehend as God’s love for sinners—for you and for me. Imagine for a moment forgiving your spouse for the ultimate betrayal. Imagine the pain and despair of your world falling apart. Perhaps you don’t have to imagine because you’ve already been there. Know, though, that God was the first to experience this ultimate loss. Even more amazing is what he did about it: “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness, and speak to her heart” (Hos 2:14, emphasis added). God courts and woos his wayward bride; this, in fact, is the role of biblical revelation. As Julian of Eclanum remarked, “Speaking directly to the heart indicates the promulgation of the law, which shaped the hearts of the listener” (Commentary on Hosea 1.2; see too Jer 31:31-34 and our first post for Works Cited).
God’s love, though, doesn’t just forgive; it starts over. God doesn’t remarry, he betroths. “I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me In righteousness and justice, In lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, And you shall know the LORD” (2:19-20 NKJV). Jerome’s comment on this passage is worth quoting at length:
How great is God’s mercy! A prostitute fornicates with many lovers, and because of her offense is handed over to the beasts. After she returns to her husband, she is said not at all to be reconciled to him but rather to be betrothed. Now notice the difference between God’s union and that of men. When a man marries, he turns a virgin into a . . . nonvirgin. But when God joins with prostitutes, he changes them into virgins. (Commentary on Hosea 1.2)
The terms of the betrothal also remind us that it is God’s character that determines the covenant: righteousness, justice, lovingkindness (or steadfast love), mercy, faithfulness. The Lord calls his bride to renew their vows using almost the exact same words as before (see Exo 34:6-7). And as we well know, it is the faithful partner who must step out in sacrificial love to initiate the healing. Hosea is therefore commanded, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans” (Hos 3:1-2).
Redemption brings radical renewal. Sin denies the good life, leaving only a distortion of its original beauty. For this reason, divine deliverance not only frees from sin, but begins to shift the believer’s entire life back into alignment. In Israel’s case, God promises to restore the very things he would soon take away: “I will give her her vineyards from there, And the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; She shall sing there, As in the days of her youth, As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt” (2:15). Yahweh therefore draws on Israel’s past to point toward the full glory of her restoration. He redeems a time of trouble (the meaning of Achor; see Jos 7:26) by holding out the hope of renewal. The bride, then, will once more be able to sing and rejoice just as she did with the Songs of Moses and Miriam (see Exo 15:1-21).
The blessings of reconciliation go well beyond the quality of Israel’s spiritual life. God restores his blessings to the land: grain, new wine and oil (Hos 2:21; see vv. 5-6, 9, 12). He restores peace and stability to their nation: “Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, To make them lie down safely” (2:18; see 1:5, 12-13). And even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air and the creeping things of the ground would enjoy this new creation (2:18). Paul looks to a similar restoration in Romans 8:20-21: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (see too Mat 19:28; 2Pe 3:10-13). All is well in the world only when the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve properly reverence their Creator.
Redemption calls for radical commitment. Though these blessings are indeed profound, the heart of the covenant remains one of belonging: “They shall answer Jezreel. Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’” (Hos 2:21-23). Here, again, Hosea employs the names of Gomer’s children, but this time as a blessing rather than a curse (see 1:11-2:1). All of this would flow from God’s acceptance of Israel once more:
“And it shall be, in that day,”
Just like the names of the children, this is no mere shift in terminology. In restored Israel, the name of Baal would be merely a bad, unspoken memory, silenced by their devotion to Yahweh. So, while My Master (Baali) rings of submission to authority, My Husband or My Man (Ishi) is a term of endearment. As the NET states, “The relationship will no longer be conditioned on the outward legal commitment but on a new inward bond of mutual affection and love.”
Such affection, though, is exclusive in the purest and best of senses. Restoration of a relationship with God—and receiving once more the blessings that flow from him—is only possible when we leave behind our false loves and false idols and give ourselves wholly to the One True God. Hosea therefore reminds Gomer of her marital commitment: “You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man—so, too, will I be toward you” (3:3). God isn’t going anywhere, and he calls us to do the same. So while he will indeed remove the causes of our temptation (3:4), he does so to prepare his children to “return and seek the LORD their God and David their king,” that they might “fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days” (3:5)—a reign reestablished through the leadership of Zerubbabel, the influence of the church, and Christ’s second coming (see our previous comment on 1:10-2:1, as well as Isa 2:2; Dan 2:28; 10:14).
Redemption is no mere theological proposition. Unfortunately, the word itself has fallen into general disuse. The only things we redeem these days are tickets and coupons. For Gomer, though, redemption meant the final payment, full restitution, freedom from slavery. As Hosea says, “So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley” (Hos 3:3). Gomer’s sin had led to abject slavery and destitution, but Hosea’s love compelled him to radically redeem his bride. Under the Old Law he could have simply divorced her (Deu 24:1-4), but God himself reminds the prophet that it is his love that is the ideal, not the temporary exception given through Moses (see too Mat 19:1-9). Today God offers us an even greater redemption: through his grace he forgives us of our sins, adopts us into his family, and pays the price we could never pay, achieving it in the most radical way possible—sacrificing his own Son and gifting us with his own Spirit (Rom 3:21-26; Gal 4:4-7; Luke 24:21). And as baptized believers, it is this same love that calls us back to God through repentance and confession (Mat 28:18-20; Acts 8:22; 1Jo 1:6-9). May we ever love and honor our great Redeemer, living for him just as he has died for us (Heb 5:8-9)!