Hosea: God’s Eternal Purposes

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Hosea 2:14—18

The book of Hosea is the first of the Minor Prophets.  This section of the Old Testament concludes with Malachi.  Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel are the Major Prophets.  Most Christians would be hard-pressed to name the Minors.  We call them Minor Prophets, not because their messages are minor but because their books are much shorter in length than those of the Majors.

The Minor Prophets were very nationalistic; they continually drove home the point that their people had broken faith with God and broken the Law of God.  Many of their sermons deal with how Jews mistreated other Jews.  For this reason, many of today’s “social gospel” persuasion love to quote from the Minors.  Of course, there is much more to the messages of the Minors than just what some have deemed their “social awareness” message.  The Minors all warned against dangerous, godless alliances with other nations.  These prophets were very patriotic and railed against moral, cultural, and political corruption.  In that sense, the messages of the Minors are very timely.

Biblical prophets were an interesting bunch of men.  They didn’t just predict the future.  What they really wanted to do was to encourage faith through the preaching of God’s Word.  Sometimes this involved a predictive element, but more often their sermons were more like exhortations:  repentance is a key theme throughout the Minors.

Another dominant theme seen in the Minors, and especially in Hosea, is that of God’s love for His people.  Did God still love Israel?  If He did, why was He punishing them?  Hosea addresses these questions masterfully.  Yes, God did still love His people.   But that love placed on them certain responsibilities.

Hosea was a contemporary of Isaiah, and he was a prophet called by God to the northern kingdom of Israel.

These are the messages from the Lord to Hosea, son of Beeri, during the reigns of these four kings of Judah:  Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah; and one of the kings of Israel, Jeroboam, son of Joash.  (Hosea 1:1  TLB)

God’s Word came to Hosea through his vital and living relationship with God but it also came through his relationship with his wife—a depraved and faithless wife.  God used her to illustrate Israel’s treacherous relationship with Him.

We may learn a lot about God’s abounding grace by looking a few choice verses in the wonderful book written by the prophet Hosea.

1.  How God works

Some sins are just worse than others.  Murder, for example, is worse than stealing a Ding Dong from the corner store.  But both are sins.  The very worst sin of all, though, is the sin of forgetting God.

“…But Me she forgot,” says the Lord.  (Hosea 2:13, NKJV)

Christians have short memories when it comes to God, too.  Many who consider themselves to be Christians routinely forget all about the Lord on His day, but they never seem to forget the ball game or that early morning on the links.

Of all the things Israel was guilty of (and that list was long!), this was the one that cut to the divine quick.  In spite of that, we read this in the very next verse:

But I will court her again and bring her into the wilderness…  (Hosea 2:14a  TLB)

The KJV uses the word “allure” instead of “court,” but the idea is clear.  The natural, human response to being mistreated (or to use Hosea’s analogy, cheated on) would be to “drive” the adulterous wife away into the wilderness and leave  her there to fend for herself, but God said He would “court” her; He would actually take the time to bring her to a place (the wilderness) where her sinful habits would fall away and the influence of sinners would not have the same effect.  God first spoke to Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 20), and so it is most fitting that God would want to take her back there to rekindle her love for Him.

Verse 14 blends beautifully the ideas of the sovereignty of God and the grace of God.  Previously, God had spoken harshly to Israel from the throne of judgment:

Now I will expose her nakedness in public for all her lovers to see, and no one will be able to rescue her from my hand.  “I will put an end to all her joys, her parties, holidays, and feasts.  I will destroy her vineyards and her orchards—gifts she claims her lovers gave her—and let them grow into a jungle; wild animals will eat their fruit.  (Hosea 2:10—12  TLB)

But now, the first movement of grace is seen:  God will once again court Israel.  God is always the Initiator when it comes to grace.  Jesus came “to seek” the lost.  It is God who calls.  Here is the perfect illustration of God’s method: He will allure Israel.   We might call this an invitation “a spiritual second honeymoon.”

It’s sad that so many seem capable of ignoring this singular work of the Holy Spirit.  The folly of thinking the temporary things of this world are better than the things of God is breathtaking.  Yet there are Christians that seem intent on dying in their worldly experiences, rather than trusting in God.   But sometimes, in His sovereignty, God will try to bring these backslidden believers to a place where the things of this world don’t look so good.  It is during these “wilderness” experiences that God’s voice may be more clearly heard.

2.  God’s merciful purpose

… I will speak to her tenderly there.  (Hosea 2:14b  TLB)

God knows what our needs are.  We think we do, and when we try to meet those needs ourselves, we find only more needs.  This was Israel’s problem.  They thought anything—from other gods to other nations—would get them what they wanted most, things like peace, prosperity, acceptance.

In the wilderness, away from all distractions, God would “speak comfort to” Israel (KJV).  In the Hebrew, God said He would “speak to her heart.”  It’s an expression of courtship seen elsewhere in the Old Testament (Genesis 34:3; Judges 19:3, for example).

So God’s merciful purpose in bringing Israel to the wilderness – indeed His purpose in the judgments mentioned in previous verses –  was so that His voice would be heard by her.  God didn’t want to yell and rage at the people He loved so much.  His punishment was not meant to drive His people away.  The opposite was intended.  When stripped of all they thought was so important, Israel might be able to hear from God.  That was His purpose.

3.  The results

(a)  There I will give back her vineyards… (Hosea 2:15a  TLB)

The very vineyards God destroyed in judgment would be completely restored.  God didn’t want to leave Israel stranded in the wilderness forever, bereft of all hope!  His purpose was to return her to her own land and to the vineyards of her own land.

How many times have those who have forsaken God returned to Him under similar circumstances?  Out of seeming failure and disaster, weariness and wandering, a backslider can finally find perspective.  The prodigal son did.

God promised to lead Israel back from the precipice.  In spite of circumstances, God’s leading is never contrary to our highest good.  God’s hand is never out of step with His heart.  Whatever may be happening to us—as negative as it may be—it is always for His glory and it’s ultimately it’s what’s best for us.  God’s wisdom never opposes His love.  Knowing this about God, why run away from Him?  We ought to joyfully, confidently trust Him, even when we face rack and ruin on account of wrong decisions and choices we have made.  No matter the crooked road you may have wandered down, you can trust the Holy Spirit to lead you back to the straight and narrow.

(b)  I will give her the Valley of Achor as a door of hope.  (Hosea 2:15b  NKJV)

At the time Hosea wrote his book, Israel’s sins had been judged.  The Valley of Achor, which was the site of trouble when Israel first entered the Promised Land (Joshua 7), would be turned into “a door of hope.”  Only God can take a negative like that and turn it around in a positive!

It’s amazing what God can do in the darkest valley!  No wonder David wrote this:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  (Psalm 23:4  NKJV)

We dread “the valley of the shadow of death” because we think that somehow it leads us away from God.  In fact, sometimes—often times—the opposite is true!  Out of those troubling times we may emerge to find God, bigger and more real than ever before.  We don’t make spiritual progress only when we are “climbing up Mount Zion,” singing all the way.  Our miracle-working God can make every valley of trouble a place of spiritual renewal.

Sharon shall be a fold of flocks,  And the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, For My people who have sought Me.   (Isaiah 65:10  NKJV)

(c)  She will respond to me there, singing with joy as in days long ago in her youth… (Hosea 2:15c  TLB)

This brings the mind back to the early days of courtship in any relationship, when emotions ran high and the sky was the limit.  Like when Israel was delivered out of Egypt.  God wanted to get Israel back to the way she was back then—return her to her “first love.”

Israel had fallen far from those heady days.  She was stuck in the rut of sin.  But God would be able to pull her out.  That’s grace in action!  This is the stunning connection between problems and hope that serves to reveal God.  It is the relation between Law and grace.  Law creates the problem as the result of sin, but grace creates hope through the problem.  No matter what your personal Valley of Achor may be, hope is closer than you think!

He forgives all my sins. He heals me.  He ransoms me from hell. He surrounds me with loving-kindness and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things! My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!  (Psalm 103:3—5  TLB)

All of this results in a new relationship:

(d)  “In that coming day,” says the Lord, “she will call me ‘My Husband’ instead of ‘My Master.’”  (Hosea 2:16  TLB)

In the original, “my husband” comes from the word ishi and “my master” from baali.  This is actually a very telling statement.  Israel was literally putting God on the same level as Baal; they were treating the One True God just as though He were nothing more than a cold idol.

But that’s not the kind of relationship wanted to have with His people then, nor does He want that kind of relationship with believers today.  The analogy of husband/wife, God/His people, implies one of loving concern, intimacy, and personal interest.  It’s a relationship based on love.  This is the kind of relationship God wants with believers today.

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.  (Song of Solomon, 6:3  TLB)

Just like when you have a happy marriage relationship you have a peaceful, happy home, so it is when your relationship with God through Jesus Christ is right:  your life will be happy.  For the Christian, serving God is about love, not fear or intimidation.  When you love God, your problems will get solved, your questions answered, your fears taken away.

This is the kind of relationship God wanted with Israel.  It will happen.  It hasn’t happened yet.  But this kind of relationship is possible today for anybody who wants it.  It all starts with heeding the call from God and placing your full trust in Him.  It’s like a marriage vow between the Savior and you!

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