Restoration and Hope – Hosea Part 4
It has definitely been a while since I’ve posted anything in the Hosea series, so I’d like to return to that this morning. So far we’ve seen God and – by way of allegory – Hosea take prostitute wives, care for them, love them, and pursue them in their sin in order to rescue and restore them. We’ve also seen that the loving disciplining hand of the Lord toward his people (Israel) as they walk in sin is an extreme form of love that he uses to bring them back to himself. His jealousy over his wife is a precious example of his perfect spiritual leadership, and his mercy in alluring his wife is an excellent picture of redemption and restoration. But that wasn’t enough – Israel and Gomer both return to their idolatry and are neck-deep in it when God decides to act again, and decides to send Hosea to depict yet another aspect of God’s love as he pays the price for his bride. Let’s pick up the story in Hosea chapter 3.
The Redemption Price
The first thing we see in verse 1 upon learning that Israel and Gomer have returned to their prostitution and adultery is that God’s love is pursuing – he commands Hosea to ‘go and love’ his prostitute wife. So even in her sin, even in her junk God sees something of worth and value – he issues a command, but it is a command to love, a command that affects the heart and emotion. And it is also an act of redemption.
So we see that Hosea obeys because of his great love for her – and he doesn’t do it begrudgingly or with resignation. In verse 2 he goes and pays the redemption price for his bride because he loves her, she is his, and he wants to see her come out of the pitiful circumstances she’s put herself in. Hosea redeems his wife – he buys her out of prostitution for fifteen shekels of silver and some barley, which isn’t very much cash, showing the sort of worthless state she has fallen into.
God also redeems his prostitute wife out of slavery in Egypt, and he paid a dear price to redeem the Church from its bondage to sin with Christ on the cross. Where Hosea paid just a small amount to buy his wife back, God paid the ultimate price – he sent his son to die in a shameful way so that his people’s sins would be atoned for and so they would be redeemed and reconciled to him.
Men who are married, what might your wife be struggling with or running to that you need to help lead her out of? To be sure, Jesus is our redeemer, but as her leader, pastor, and spiritual head it is your duty to shepherd and steward her to flourish under your leadership.
Women who are married, what might your husband be struggling with that you can help him walk through as a helpful, wise, crown to your husband?
What slavery has God redeemed you from? What does the redemption price that God paid in Christ on the cross mean for your sin?
The second main topic we see in verse 3 is that God restores the covenant between himself and his bride – he claims what is rightfully his. This ‘you are mine’ language – how does it hit you? Do you see this as an oppressive husband cutting into his wife’s freedom and fun? Or perhaps do you see this as a great example of a husband loving his wife for her own good and removing her from her sin so that she doesn’t lead herself into destruction? Israel, as God’s bride, is rightfully and solely God’s. Gomer is solely and rightfully Hosea’s wife. They are covenant brides, not flavors of the week. When – like in this case – the going is very difficult (a wife is turning to prostitution and destroying her marriage), the faithful covenant husband fights for his marriage, fights for his wife, and fights for what is rightfully his.
Men and women – are you fighting for your marriage? Do you see your spouse as your covenant bride or groom to whom you are devoted?
One thing I also noticed that is not in the text is that with God and Hosea there is no turning of the head, no sidelong glances at another who isn’t their wife. They have only wholehearted devotion, love, and pursuit of their respective wives. This is not a wooden response to an order, but rather a conviction based on a commitment or covenant to have their bride as a lily among thorns – the only one desirable for them. From what we can see in this particular instance, we can see that this particular lily in question is not looking like a lily; she looks more like a prostitute. She has found herself running back to the shameful activities, unsanitary surroundings, and wicked people from whom she was redeemed. This lily, though, is seen as a precious lily in a couple of ways. First, she is his standard of beauty, his devotion, the object of his faithful covenant love. Second, to her husband, all other women are thorns – she is the only desirable one for him. If you’re married or engaged, all other women aside from your fiancée or wife are thorns to you. That doesn’t mean you can’t be cordial and talk with them, but I does mean that your wife is the recipient of your love and affection. Period. Not most of it, or some of it, but all of it. We’re reminded that God’s love is the pattern for us – he does not command us to go where he has not already been. When he says ‘so I will be to you’ he is renewing his covenant, demonstrating his faithful covenant love yet again, and ensuring his devotion to his bride.
How might you make all other things thorns and make the Lord your true devotion?
How might you make all other women or men thorns and make your husband or wife your devotion?
After saying that he will secure Israel and renew the covenant with her, God then declares in verse 4 that he will arrest her undivided attention for her good. She will have no king, no princes, no household gods or priestly garments. This is to prevent her from being distracted by anything other than her faithful covenant husband – all temptations will be silenced. There will be no ruler over her, save for her King. There will be no temple activities and there will be no idolatry in her homes. Essentially God is removing everything that Israel has struggled with or been led astray by – he will have her devotion because it is for her good and his glory.
So God purges his wife’s life of her idols. This will most definitely cause much pain and turmoil, but as he said in verse 3, he will be with her throughout the process. God does this same thing with us personally. He whittles down our lives at certain times and chips away our sinful tendencies in order to show us how much we truly need him. He demonstrates how we must be devoted to our loving King and Bridegroom; it is painful, but he is with us and he is for us.
Have you ever been exhausted by God and led into the spiritual desert? Has he taken things away in your life that led you away from him? What were those things, and what was that time like?
The third chapter rounds out with verse 5, a precious promise of future restoration – all Israel will seek the Lord and will have the hope and expectation of a King like David (Jesus). Now, Hosea is written quite a while after David reigned and died. Furthermore, this kind of a reference is also strange because it’s written to the northern kingdom (Israel) who revolted against the south. The cool part about it is that it denotes God’s plan of redemption, healing, restoration, and reunification for the whole nation of Israel. He will reconcile his people both to each other and to himself. The first half of the verse states that Israel will return to seek the Lord – they will turn their affections to him because he has wooed them in this peculiar but perfect way. The second half of the verse prophesies that Israel will come to fear – or ‘revere’ and know the awesome power of – the Lord and his goodness.
God’s realignment of Israel’s thinking mainly affects the way his people fear him. They had grown entirely too comfortable with the fact that God loved them, and they had taken him for granted to the point that they led themselves astray and had completely rejected their faithful covenant King. So the Lord loves his bride to the extent that he will give her what is best for her – himself. This is why the prophecy of the King like David is so immensely important – we see that God will provide for his girl and he will bring lasting joy to her in Christ Jesus. This is the love that we experience as those who claim the name of Christ, and this is the joy that we have in our God. Not only do we have joy in him right now and hope in his goodness while we dwell on this earth, but one day we will see him and dwell in his presence forever.
I long for that day, and I look forward with eager anticipation for those who claim the name of Christ to join in worship of our true King. Then will we truly be home at last. But in the mean time there is much sin and tribulation, and God still has much to say to us about it.
More on that coming soon…