How does Hosea act out God’s covenant love for his people?
He pursues his wife, to get her back.
God says, “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” (Hos 3.1).
One commentator says, “They turn to other gods and love—what do they love?—raisin cakes! These were probably used in Canaanite rituals. They show just how carnal and unworthy is Israel’s outlook” (New Bible Commentary, 769).
So Hosea finds his wife and buys her back (Hos 3.2). Apparently she has sold herself into slavery, perhaps to get enough food and shelter to survive. Like the prodigal son, she has learned that a life of licentiousness is one not of freedom. She is not in an attractive state, but her husband pays the redemption price.
She is now technically and legally his slave. The penalty for adultery is death, and he could take her to the civil authorities for execution, but he does not choose that route. (That calls to mind the thinking of Joseph, “a just man,” about Mary in Mt 1.19.) He tells her that she is to live under his support and without immorality, but also apparently without marital relations, for a period of time (Ho 3.3). This is to illustrate the fact that Israel will be exiled, without a king, for “many days” (Hos 3.4).
But the time will come when Israel will seek to return to David her king (Ho 3.5). In Hosea’s time David was long dead; we know that the one she will seek is David’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus, the Christ (Ac 2.29-36).
One commentator notes,
The pain was just a step along the way of God’s efforts, not to destroy, but to get his people to respond to his love. … The pain was caused by their sin but was motivated by God’s loving desire to restore their original relationship of love and obedience. The pain is designed not to make believers run away from God but back to him (Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary, 323).
That day has not yet fully come. Israel today remains resistant to the rule of its Messiah, though many individuals from that nation have recognized and believed in him. But in the meantime, as Paul has noted, God has used this ongoing resistance to bring into his kingdom all nations of the world:
Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! (Ro 11.12).
This is about more than Hosea, and it’s about more than Israel.
It’s about more than “the heart of Gomer, who cannot remain faithful, and the heart of Hosea, who cannot abandon his commitment” (Bible Reader’s Companion, 523).
It’s about God, and it’s about us.
The chastisement of God’s people took place within the context of God’s unchanging commitment. His goal through discipline was his people’s perfection, never his people’s eternal destruction. Through his unfailing love, God desired to inspire a similar love in his people. Hosea emphasized that the essence of God’s kingdom was a relationship of response to God’s love (Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary, 322).
We have a heavenly Husband, who loves us as no other ever has or ever will. We need to leave our trivial paper gods and serve Him with our whole hearts.
He is our Husband. Let us love Him.
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