We’ve seen in chapter one of the book of Hosea, how the Lord told the prophet Hosea to take a wife, but a wife of dubious (questionable)background, in fact He told Hosea to take a “wife of whoredom”(Hos.1:2)and her name was Gomer.Hosea’s call to an unhappy marriage, separation and divorce and final reconciliation is a demonstration of God’s relationship (or Yahweh’s relationship) to His people. Hosea’s experience of having an unfaithful wife who was also a prostitute demonstrates how God (YHWH) experiences the spiritual adultery of His people: primarily Israel, but also Christians today. We will however, eventually see how God’s anguish will turn into an unfailing love for His people, despite the depth of sin to which His loved ones fall.
We also saw last week, that the events described in chapter one reflect, the tragic conditions existing in Israel and Judah at the time of the prophet’s ministry. That is, the domestic tragedy in Hosea’s home was a miniature of a far greater tragedy in the nations of Judah and Israel. That tragedy was in the nation having turned from God to other gods. Such turning could only result in God’s displeasure and their destruction.
God could turn the present tragedy, expressed in the nation’s rebelliousness and idolatry, into triumph; this He would do indeed, but not in the time om Hosea’s ministry, He would do that later in “the day of Jezreel.”
The name of Gomer’s last child which was conceived out of wedlock, was Lo-Ammii which means “not my people.”This shows the attitude of Hosea toward the child. By giving the child such a name, the prophet was disowning his own paternity, meaning “I am not the child’s father.”He was declaring it to be the offspring of another. As in the previous case, the experience of Hosea was a symbol of the relationship between God and Israel. Israel, because of her relationship with and devotion to other god’s, was no more God’s children than Lo-ammi was Hosea’s. Thus, 1:9 comes to the heart of the tragic condition in Hosea’s family and shows the larger tragedy relating to the nation of Israel. In light of the sin within Israel, they were no longer considered to be God’s covenant people. By their actions they had broken the covenant. As a result, God would no longer be “I am”(literally, “I will be”)for them. What a tragic turn of events! Those who had once been God’s (“my people”) would no longer be His, and the one who had been their God would no longer be their God.
- SCRIPTURE READING:
Hosea 2:2-13 (ESV) ~ “2 Plead with your mother, plead – for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband – that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts; 3 lest I strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and make her like a parched land, and kill her with thirst. 4 Upon her children also I will have no mercy, because they are children of whoredom. 5 For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax(flax is also called linseed. Linseed is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. It is a food and fibre crop cultivated in cooler regions of the world. Textiles made from flax are known in the Western countries as linen, and traditionally used for bed sheets, underclothes, and table linen), my oil and my drink.’ 6 Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. 7 She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’ 8 And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal. 9 Therefore I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season, and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness. 10 Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall rescue her out of my hand. 11 And I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts. 12And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees, of which she said, ‘These are my wages, which my lovers have given me.’ I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall devour them. 13 And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the Lord. 14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 And there I will give her, her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. 16 “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. 18 And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord. 21 “And in that day I will answer, declares the Lord, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, 22 and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, 23 and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”
We will be looking at our passage for today under the following three headings:
- The Offense(2:2);
- The Judgment(2:3-13);
- The Restoration(2:14-23).
3.1 THE OFFENSE (2:2):When the Northern Kingdom of Israel was taken captive by Assyria in 721 B.C., Assyria ruled most of the known world. Yet, within a few short decades, the Assyrian Empire had crumbled before the onslaught of the Babylonians. Under Nebuchadnezzar Babylonia became a world empire, inheriting for the most part territories and peoples conquered by Assyria. If these peoples resisted their new masters, Nebuchadnezzar responded swiftly and savagely and therefore, Judah fell in 586 B.C. Though the Lord used the conquering empires asscourges (a whip used as an instrument of punishment)in His hand to punish rebellious and backsliding Israel and Judah, once the same empires had fulfilled their purpose, they too came to a swift end.
Nebuchadnezzar’s vigorous rule in Babylon was finished in 562 B.C. He was the last great Chaldean ruler, and at his death the empire’s decline was rapid. The Babylonians’ own wickedness brought swift decline. Nebuchadnezzar was followed by about a half a dozen of short reigning emperors. It was during this time that Daniel and his friends were cast into the burning fiery furnace (Dan.3).
Cyrus the Great emerged in history in 559 B.C. as ruler of the little province of Anshan, a district in north-western Elam just south of Media and east of the Zagros Mountains and he took over reign of Babylon in 539 B.C. Shortly thereafter, as recorded in 2 Chron.36:22-23 and Ezra 1:1-11, Cyrus decreed (or made a law) throughout his empire that any captive Jews in Babylonia who desired to, could return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Cyrus even allowed the vessels of gold and silver stolen by Nebuchadnezzar’s troops to be returned.
Although Judah is mentioned a lot of times, there is no doubt that Hosea was a prophet from and to the Northern Kingdom of Israel that had broken away from the kingdom of David in 922 B.C. after King Solomon’s death.
The words spoken in 2:2 werewords spoken to a part of the restored nation of the future (2:23) and they were told by the prophet to plead with the rest of the nation of Israel (Northern kingdom) to put away their idolatry and harlotries (prostitution)or God will strip her naked and bring drought upon her.
The expression “plead”in 2:2 says that time is running out for them to return to God and escape His wrath (anger). Gomer’s gross sin must be dealt with now or never. The fact that 2:2 gives Gomer the opportunity to turn around from her sinful practices and that 2:3 starts with the word “lest”, seems as if a divorce was still avoidable.
The word “mother”(also in 2:2) refers to the nation of Israel collectively. The small minority of Israelites who are still loyal to God must plead with the rest of the nation.
Because of Gomer’s fornication (or adultery), she has destroyed her privilege and status as wife of Hosea and therefore Hosea is not her husband anymore – this of course refers to Israel’s spiritual adultery. As a result of that, they are not “the wife of God”anymore and God is not their God anymore – BUT, there is still hope and a chance that the situation can be overturned – i.e. if the wife would turn around and repent.
Apparently, sometime after Hosea’s marriage to Gomer, he could see that his wife was treading on her old ways again, because of her outward appearance. Harlots (whores/prostitutes) in those days usually had tattoos and especially between their breasts which was revealed by wearing dresses with low-cut necklines. They also wore heavy makeup, golden jewels, nose rings, single layer dresses, tightly fitted clothing and usually clothing of scarlet colour, which was decorated with gold, and precious stones, and pearls. Many of them also whore face masks.
Israel also showed the signs of a harlot (a whore/prostitute) – a nation wandering away from God’s ways, thus the warning from God, but the call to turn around before it is too late, was indeed too late, because Israel had already turned to the gods of Baalim.
3.2THE JUDGMENT (2:3-13):Verse 3 starts with the word “lest”(some translations – “if”)which introduces a series of threats of discipline. If Gomer, doesn’t make a clean break with her adultery, she will be stripped naked and removed from the blessings of her present life. She will land in a wilderness which will be a threat to her very existence.
The similarity between Hosea’s situation which existed between God and Israel is obvious – like Gomer, Israel had become an unfaithful wife. Her unfaithfulness expressed itself in numerous ways, but primarily in idolatry. The mother (Israel) of the individual Israelites was entreated (begged) by her children to turn from her activity of following the Baalim gods. She was, in fact, begged not only to refrain from her compromising activity, but also to remove every indication of such a way of life (2:2b).
The unfaithfulness of Israel was further described in Hosea as “harlotry”(prostitution). This tragic practice was reflected in Israel’s looking to the Baalim gods as their sources of her bread, water, wool and flax for clothing, and drinks. These were referred to as luxury items. That is, the people not only acknowledged Baalim as the one who provided in their needs of life; they also credited these false gods with the luxuries of life (2:5).
To have done this was bad enough in itself. The other side of this tragedy, however, may be seen in 2:8. While Israel was thanking Baal for their livelihood and therefore, denying that God had been the source of everything. That was a rejection of God which added to the tragedy of their lives. And, as if that were not enough, they had taken silver and gold, provided by God, in their worship of the Baalim. They were using resources provided by God, but at the same time, ignoring the very fact that God provided it, and even worse, they used that which God provided, in their worship of the Baalim. That was the worst form of heresy.
In the latter part of 2:13, we find another statement of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. They were charged with having burned incense to the Baalim. The Israelites forgot that God will not share His place with another. When man attempts this or do this, he forgets the true God; and God in turn, considers forsaking them. And this consideration of God, to forsake Israel, becomes the focus of Hosea’s attention.
The normal and natural reaction of any man with a wife who gives herself over to prostitution, is to leave her, and disallows himself to be her husband. Normally in such a case the woman would be stoned to death.
In this passage the relationship between God and Israel does not apply to a literal marriage, there is a covenantal relationship that exist between God and Israel. In fact, the covenantal relationship between God and Israel should have been more intimate then that of a marriage relationship between man and woman. It does implicate a sense of mutual affection and devotion. Yahweh (God) would be the nation’s God if they would be His people. The evidence of them being His people would be their keeping of the law. If, on the other hand, they forsook Yahweh, His first reaction would be to declare the dissolution of the relationship.
The first thing that God does can be seen in 2:3. According to Ex.21:10, God fulfilled His responsibility as a husband to clothe his wife, but now He would strip her naked, a thing often done to unfaithful woman. He would return her to the poverty which she knew when he found her in Egypt, i.e. without anything. He would even not have any mercy upon the offspring born to this unworthy relationship. He would also consider taking back all which He had formally given His bride (2:9).
3.3THE RESTORATION (2:14-23):The husband, in His great mercy, however, did not follow through, with that. Ultimately, He chose a different course altogether. Instead of reducing Israel to poverty and want, He chose to convince her of the folly and futility of the way she had chosen. He would not seek her destruction. He would seek to persuade her to reject her present course in several ways.
The first method He would use was, as we can see in 2:6 ~ “(to) hedge up her way with thorns, and (building) a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths.”These restraints (confines) were depicted as a hedge of thorns and a wall. Both would keep the nation from finding the “paths”which led her to the Baal gods (2:6). This was simply Hosea’s way of saying that their rewards of their pursuit of the Baalim, would be so disappointing that her (i.e. Israel as God’s wife) rewards, would serve as a deterrent (a hedge of thorns or a wall)which should convince her, that what she desired, she will not receive, because of the way she was going. God did not seek Israel’s destruction but her restoration. He wished her restored to her former role of “wife” to God.
God therefore, planned to allure (attract) her into the wilderness where there was nothing to distract her. There He would speak to her heart to heart (2:14). This gracious action on God’s part would open up the possibility of the restoration of the relationship which existed before the time of their forsaking God for the Baalim. It is clear that God wants to provide an avenue of hope to His bride (2:15a). This avenue of hope, referred to as the valley of Achor, was a reference to the place where Achon’s disobedience to God was avenged (Jos.7:26)~ “And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.”
By opening his wife’s eyes to the fact that Baalim could not provide in all her needs she would seek the renewal of the relationship with God – He that took care of her in the wilderness journey out of Egypt. She realised that it was better for her to have a restored relationship with God, than following the Baalim gods and that resulted in her returning to her first husband, God. She had seen the difference. She had benefited from her relationship with God while, in her relationship with the Baalim, she had experienced one disappointment and/or judgement after the other.
In addition to Israel’s own declaration of her intention to return, God announced that the nation would respond positively. She would respond to the troubled conditions she had encountered by returning to Him with the same delight and willingness she had experienced when she followed Him out of Egypt (2:15b). This happy prospect could but result in her denial of any reference to God as Baalim, which was a legal reference to her husband as the master of his wife. She would return to her former lover whom she affectionately refers to as Ishi (my husband). This referred to the deep interpersonal relationship of marriage (2:16). The Baalim, as a result, will not only be eliminated from the nation’s vocabulary; they would be forgotten altogether (2:17).
These events would result in Israel’s world becoming a place of peace and tranquillity (2:18). These were conditions to be realised no doubt in the Messianic age. It would be a time of peace among men. At that time, God would, having by then transformed Israel, betroth her to Himself as His bride for ever (3:19).
Out of the new and permanent betrothal (covenant in marriage)would come a bride who would know God intimately, as well as one who would remain faithful to Him (2:20). Such intimacy and faithfulness would result, in turn, in God’s goodness and faithfulness (2:21), and the nation’s being permanently planted upon the land (2:23a). When that time finally came, those who had been unpitied would then be the objects of His pity, and those who had been referred to as not being His, would be declared to be His very own people (2:23b). What a day that would be!
- CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
Thus, in this section, the book of Hosea proclaims the truth that the overwhelming desire of God is not for the destruction of those who reject or turn from Him, but for their redemption and the restoration, and to enhance these possibilities, God had embarked upon an endless quest (pursuit)to win them to Himself. His providences in such a pursuit, often result in men and nations turning to Him and their becoming the recipients of the most intimate of relationships, the beneficiaries of unbelievable supply for life.
Though sometimes as God’s children we are faithless and unfaithful, God remains faithful ~ “…if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny Himself”(2 Tim.2:13). He always desires to draw us to Himself.
It is such a security to know that the One who sought Israel still seeks man today through the Spirit of the Son! How meaningful the truth that He still responds to those who respond to Him! It was good news in Hosea’s day; it is wonderful news for us today.
Therefore, my friend, if you are not saved; if you not sure whether you are born again and God’s child, it is still not too late. God is calling you – and the Word is clear and simple – we read in John 3:18 ~ “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God”and in Rom.10:9 ~ “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”For those of you, who wandered away from God, like Gomer from Hosea, or Israel from God, it is also not too late for you to return to God, bow before God and confess your sins and repent and follow Christ again and you will also hear God’s words as in the case of Israel (or Gomer for that matter) ~ “You are my people.”