I think one of the biggest things that I’ve seen thus far in my journey through Hosea is the blueprint that God lays for us as men and women to follow his example. His character and actions toward his people model how we as men must relate to women, and how we as a people must submit to his leadership. Today’s section that we’ll walk through has given me much pause in how God relates to and disciplines us as a jealous father and husband, and the sorry state of affairs that ensues when we reject his loving, gracious headship.
The main concept I’ve grappled with in the past few weeks has been the difference between the way that God leads and the way that I would likely lead in these various situations. I honestly don’t know how I would endure what God has, but his example of doing what is truly for our good in spite of our ongoing sin is a precious testament to his faithful covenant love (the Hebrew word is ‘hesed’ – usually translated ‘lovingkindness’ in the Old Testament). It is his initiating, sustaining, faithful pursuit of his passionate love toward his people for their benefit and his glory. It is this love that endures forever, blesses us to the utmost, and demonstrates his glory in the world. But let’s be completely clear here… that doesn’t mean that he excuses or overlooks or downplays sin. God’s true love is seen in his full-on relentless address of sin so that his bride is pure. This concept seems to be the best way to frame this passage that we’ll walk through today – Hosea 2:1-13.
A Pleading Jealous Husband
At this point in the narrative, Hosea has married his prostitute wife Gomer and they’ve had some kids. Surprise surprise, she’s a sinner. And not only that, apparently she has returned to her former ways and hasn’t killed that sin in her life. So then by way of allegory, God has taken his people for himself, and they just happen to be sinners as well. They have forsaken their Lord and turned back to their old idolatry and systematic unrepentant sin. God then instructs Hosea to demonstrate a heavenly reality in his earthly context by confronting his wife’s ongoing sin, and to warn her as a (rightfully) jealous husband should.
The opening verse in this rebuke is very tough, but very necessary. It starts off with an interesting play on words – the children’s names are promised in reverse. Their names meaning ‘not my people’ and ‘no mercy’ are reversed to say that God has accepted his people and that he has given mercy – that God’s love will provide open arms for his people should they repent of their sin. But the Lord quickly turns to pleadingly rebuke his wife for straying away from his faithful covenant love (verse 2). Because of his love he is warning her of impending consequences of her lifestyle. Therefore, God says that he will send his bride out into the desert, and make her barren and thirsty, driving her to understand the humiliating and shameful nature of her sin (verse 3). She will also understand what she has (or doesn’t have) without her husband. Though it is hard to see, this is the hidden smile of God, an act of mercy that will hopefully yield the precious fruit of repentance and reconciliation. Without her dissatisfaction and understanding of her hopeless estate, she would continue on unabated in her sin, leading herself more and more astray. It is God’s love that pushes her into the desert to stoke the fires of repentance.
Have you ever felt this discipline from the Lord? Has he driven you into the desert to see the stark reality of your sin? How have you responded?
We also see that God’s judgment in this case doesn’t just affect his bride – it affects their children as well (verse 4). Her sin has incurred many consequences and has affected many people. And that’s another good point – our sin never affects just us. It affects everyone, including future generations. Think about that… parents who pass their insecurities and temptations on to their children are passing their sin and its consequences along.
Let me be both clear and blunt. Sin never stays within the boundaries you set for it. It always spills its banks, always costs more than you think, and cuts far deeper than you can imagine. Its desire is for you – to consume you, to rule you, to make you its slave. And when you are enslaved to sin, you drag many others – especially those you love and who love you – down with you. While your sin is your own and you are the one who is responsible for it, its effects are far reaching and broad ranging. Take a sober look at your life and your sin and you will (I pray) be humbled at the effects of your sin. I weep at the hurt I’ve caused others. I pray you do as well.
Moving along in the passage, we see that the prostitute wife (Gomer/Israel) continues on seeking wrongly attributed benefits from sinful relationships (verse 5). She is pursuing sin and looking to it to provide only what God is capable of providing. How many times do we do this? In what ways to we look to gain God’s provision outside of the means that he has chosen to provide it? When we seek other means by which we can experience sex, for example (adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, pedophilia, etc.), we go against his design and incur many consequences that are too numerous to dig into here. The same goes for money – when we seek illegal or illegitimate gain, it never works out in the long run. When we desire children, provision for our families, or anything that supersedes our desire to stay within the way God has wired the world to work, we are essentially the harlot wife looking to ‘clients’ to whom she has wrongly attributed her husband’s provision. This is ugly, and it is real.
God’s response in this situation is to hedge his bride (verse 6) – to keep her from her own sin – for her own good. This shows his wisdom and love for his bride. It is analogous to when we keep small children from playing in a busy street, or slap their hand away from a hot stove. God’s love for his children and his infinite wisdom drives him to restrain her from her sin. So the Lord goes on to show that his bride will be hemmed in, that she will desire sin and not be allowed to pursue it or act on it. She will eventually become discouraged and downtrodden, exhausted from the fruitless pursuit of shortsighted lust.
How does that hit you? What do you make of God directly contradicting his bride’s ‘free will’ to protect her?
The text takes an interesting turn here (verse 7) – God’s prostitute wife, at her wits’ end, will then return to her husband, not from love or repentance, but because she realizes that things were at least better with him. I think we (or at least I) do this all the time. It is the beginning of the process that leads to repentance. Though it is not repentance, it is at least an acknowledgement of the fruitless pursuit of sin, and the realization that God is ready and willing to receive us. Now, that in no way means that the road back will be easy or straight, or even make sense most of the time, but it does mean that the Lord is waiting at the end as our reward.
In the following verse, we see a really interesting concept that seems peculiar at first, but I think opens up into a much larger understanding of God’s sovereignty and love (verse 8). God shows his hand, stating that he was the one who provided the various things mentioned in the passage, not his bride’s lovers. This is another precious grace that in spite of our sin his love is unwavering, his resolve unshaken. God is much bigger than that, and his purposes for us far exceed the effects of our sin if we are his in Christ Jesus. Just because we sin against him on a daily basis doesn’t mean that he isn’t at work around us, in us, through us, and in spite of us. He is our ultimate provider, not our jobs, not our own hands, not ‘luck’. So it is not a company that provides my paycheck – rather, God gives me plenty to steward for his kingdom. It is not the locks on my doors that keep me secure at night – God restrains evil at my doorstep. And in order for us to appropriately live in this world we must see that even the most seemingly random events are at the hands of God’s sustaining and provisionary grace. So we must give him the glory in providing for us, even and especially if we’re in sin.
I think the best biblical example of this is found in Romans 5:8 – “… but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” So before you and I ever took a breath or sinned, while Paul was still a Pharisee who would go on to murder Christians, while we were hardened desperate sinners, Christ died for us so that we might be free to love him and glorify him in our lives.
How has God provided for you when you’ve been far from him in sin? What provisions have you taken for granted that God can take away at any time? How does that make you feel about or respond to the Lord?
The last few verses are not easy to read or walk through, in my opinion. It details out the way that God will discipline and humiliate his bride so that she will return to him. This is by no means a direct correlation to our human marriages now – God is God, you are not. But I’ll address that in a minute. First, God expresses his disgust at what he has so graciously lavished on his bride, she has used for sin (verse 9). His judgment, then, is to take it away from her and strip her of his provisions to show her shameful pursuits, her neediness, kill her pride, and bring her back to repentance. Israel/Gomer will utterly at the hands of her husband (verse 10). He will also take away her capacity for happiness apart from him (verse 11), because that is his greatest glory and her greatest good. He will take away her money, her livelihood, her base from which she conducts her sin, and will bring disaster to her (verse 12). He will also punish her for her sin and adultery – for letting her affections for another compromise her life as she slips further and further into sin.
What do you make of this? How does God’s jealousy hit you? It seems as though he’s not only jealous for his glory, but also for our love.
As a husband, what wouldn’t you do to rescue your wife back from her sin? She’s your responsibility; if she’s heading into sin and adultery, what would you do to stop her? Would you warn her, cut off her credit card, make it increasingly difficult to accomplish her sin? This is God’s motivation and methodology for wooing his wife back from her egregious sin. This isn’t just a sinfully jealous boyfriend or husband stalking and controlling his wife and dictating everything she does. It is a faithfully covenanted husband rescuing his wife from her sin for their marriage’s sake.
This is mercy and love at its finest. Anyone can make a marriage work when things are good, when the sex is good, when the laundry is done and the food is cooked. But when you realize that people are sinners and that you’re married to one of them, and when you have your fights about sex and kids and whatever else, and when you are tempted to see that things would be different and maybe better with someone else… 1) how do you discipline your mind to come away from that temptation? 2) how do you work with your spouse to bring yourself or him/her away from their sin? How do those conversations go, and how do you fight to protect your marriage?
And what about the more subtle sins? How do you show the effects of your spouse’s sin in a clear but non-vindictive way? When your spouse sins against you, do you throw it in their face with a smirk and say ‘you need to fix this’… or do you lovingly wait until they are in a receptive frame of mind and calmly express your love for them and desire to work through their sin with them?
What tempts you away from your spouse? What tempts you away from God? Why?