Hosea 3: Redeeming Love

I have been reading and thinking on the prophecy of Hosea recently and came across this article last night by Doug Goins of Peninsula Bible Church.  I don’t know anything about him, but I appreciated his reflection on chapter 3, entitled “Redeeming Love”.  I am posting just the very beginning of what he wrote on this chapter here because I thought it was worth sharing.  You can read his entire commentary on this book on-line here.

Hosea chapter 3
by Doug Goins

This series in the prophecies of Hosea is examining the heart of God and the heart of the great prophet Hosea. God’s word was revealed in Hosea’s life as he lived it and in what he wrote and preached to the northern kingdom eight centuries before Jesus was born.

The narrative in chapter 3 returns primarily to the relationship between Hosea and Gomer, after dealing in chapter 2 with the relationship between God and the nation Israel. Verses 1-5:

And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is beloved of a paramour and is an adulteress; even as the LORD loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley.

And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days; you shall not play the harlot, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”

For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to His goodness in the latter days.

God came to the prophet and told him to marry a woman who would become a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry, and that is what happened, as we have seen in our studies of chapters 1 and 2. Now, try to get inside Hosea’s skin and imagine his anguish over Gomer’s rejection of his love for her. Try to identify with his growing realization that she is caught in an addictive compulsion that drives her to relationship after relationship. Empathize with his need to steel himself against the gossip about his wife’s adultery. Allow your heart to be broken for both Hosea and for Gomer as he learns that she has gone from promiscuity to Baal cult prostitution to slavery. For she is no longer just the plaything of other men, no longer the sexual object of this sensual fertility cult. Now she is actually being sold into the violent debauchery of the slave market. Try to give vent to the sense of outrage, anger, and judgment that Hosea justifiably feels, as well as the shame and humiliation. And hear your own heart echo Hosea’s anguish.

Now try to imagine the consternation and utter amazement that Hosea must feel when God commands, “Go again and love this woman.” The very idea must send shock waves through his heart. On a personal level, should he set himself up to be hurt and humiliated again? And on a religious level, as God’s spokesman to the nation, how can he reverse his justified condemnation of this woman who stands for Israel? It would be anathema to everything he believes in. These are significant questions.

But in verse 1 the how is superseded by the motivation or the why of Yahweh‘s command: “…Even as the LORD loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” The source of the strength and the will power to follow God’s command will be God’s own example and the power of his love expressed toward his people. The choice that Yahweh is making to love his own people is the same choice that Hosea has to make. He is to go and be reconciled to Gomer, even though she doesn’t deserve reconciliation, and in fact has done every maligning thing she could to ruin his career and scathe his moral sensibilities.

I read a simplistic description of Hosea in one Bible commentary a couple of weeks ago: “A bad wife produced a good prophet.” That is not true. The call to love a compulsive, rebellious wife led a faithful prophet to experience the greatness of God. This is really about God much more than it is about Hosea. The essence of God’s greatness throughout this wonderful book is his initiating love and the reconciliation that he is committed to for us. In our study of chapter 1, I suggested that this whole book is a symphony of grace. And chapter 3 in just five verses is like the whole orchestra’s playing a wonderful crescendo of that prevenient, before-hand, undeserved favor.

But again, very personally and privately in your own experience, can you really empathize with Hosea? You probably have not had to endure the pain of a spouse like Gomer. But before you write off Gomer’s psychological or character disorder as some extreme that you thankfully have never had to deal with, think of the pain and frustration that we all have experienced with friends and family members who have done us seemingly irreparable harm. Consider the people you have cut off because of what they have said or done to you or the violence that you have experienced because of them. Now hear the call of God, “Go again and love!”

Furthermore, and most importantly of all, when we think of our own relationship with God, the full impact of this passage is experienced in identifying not just with Hosea but also with Gomer. None of us naturally desires God; we are all part of a fallen creation. We have a bent toward willful independence and disobedience, and we don’t want God to be the sovereign Lord of our lives. Because we find it humanly impossible to make him Lord of our lives, he always has to come first as our Savior-Redeemer, buying us back. Our sin, though perhaps different from Gomer’s, is no less serious. And the wonder is what God came to earth in Christ to do for us on Calvary—to atone for our sins and to reconcile us to himself.

This passage presents God’s love for humanity and for each one of us personally, and it also presents what our attitude and actions should be toward others who through their sin have fouled up our lives as well as their own. It is through the lens of the atoning work of Christ on the cross that we view these five verses of redeeming love. We never really know how much a person loves us until we know how much they are willing to suffer for us.

Read the rest of this article here.


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