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Saturday, 11 December 2004 17:29

Studies in Hosea (2) (Hosea 2:2-13)

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Study Number 2

(Hosea 2:2-13)

In our last study we saw that the Lord used Hosea in a most unusual way. In order to demonstrate what had gone wrong in the relationship between Jehovah and Israel, Hosea had to marry a prostitute name Gomer. Three children were born to Hosea and Gomer. Each of them was given a name that expressed divine judgment: Jezreel meaning "scattered," Lo-ruhamah meaning "not loved," and Lo-ammi which means "not my people."

In this way the Lord indicated what He thought of His sinful people. Israel had become unfaithful to Jehovah, as Gomer had been to Hosea, and this caused the Lord much pain, just as it had hurt the prophet.

In chapter 2 we have a continuation of this sad story. Although Israel had become Jezreel, Lo-ammi and Lo-ruhamah because of her sins, God would have mercy on her again and restore her to favour. Before things would get better they would first get worse. Israel would fall even deeper into sin as this chapter clearly shows. Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband. We may also translate: bring charges against your mother, bring charges. The Lord here accuses His people of having deserted Him to run away with another lover. It is important to remember, however, that this part of the message also is acted out in the actual experience of Hosea.

One night, the prophet comes home and finds the children alone in the house, unfed and uncared for. Their mother has disappeared. This represents a new phase in Gomer's sinful behaviour. Until now she had always come home after every adulterous escapade. Hosea had been aware of her cheating all along and had pleaded with her to change her ways. When that had not worked, he had asked the children to plead with their mother. This too had been in vain. Gomer was not to be dissuaded. In verse 5 we have her answer, both to Hosea's and her children's pleas: I will go after my lovers, she says, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.

Hosea was very upset, of course, to find that his wife had left. He had pleaded with her and threatened her and even asked the children to reason with her. You are not a good wife for dad, they told her. Stop seeing other men. If you don't, dad will take action against you. He will take everything away from you, even the clothes you are wearing. Please mother, come back!

I purposely re-phrase verses 2 to 6 this way to help you understand what was going on in that family. Remember that Hosea is acting out in his own life and experience what was taking place between the Lord and His people Israel.

Hosea was very upset, and we can understand that. But do we realize that God is also upset? Do we realize that the Lord is just as hurt and grieved when He sees His Church and His Bride acting in a similar way? True, God does not grieve exactly as man does, because He is God. He controls all things and always works them out according to His own good pleasure. Still, there is a parallel between God's feelings and ours, and in this case the whole story of Hosea and Gomer is designed to show the nature of God's love toward those who have been unfaithful to Him. The God of the Bible is a God with emotions. We find Him weeping for His people, yearning for them, and working for their deliverance.

Gomer must have been an attractive woman as far as her outward appearance goes, but her character was probably very shallow and her ambitions and aspirations were dishonourable. As she embarked on her sinful path, however, she would soon discover where her sinful desires would take her.

Gomer left Hosea for pleasure and for material things which she thought her lovers could provide (verse 5). How sad that this wretched woman could not appreciate the pure and faithful love of Hosea and that she preferred the empty pleasures of sin and worldly goods! Because she failed to put the right value on true love, she was bound to lose even the false love she bought at the price of her honour.

Things went from bad to worse with her. Her first lover apparently was a man of means who was able to take care of her very well. When he grew tired of her and dumped her, she ended up with someone of more modest means, so that she had to make do with much less. Then, after he too abandoned her, she shacked up with someone who could barely feed and clothe her. This too lasted only for a little while, until she found herself at the bottom of the social ladder, living with a man who was so poor that he could not support her at all. Here she was hungry and without decent clothes to wear!

This should not surprise us. Gomer deserves this. She has brought this misery on herself. What is surprising, yes, amazing, in all this is that Hosea still loves his wayward wife! Even if he was tempted to stop loving her, the Lord did not let him. In chapter 3:1 we read that God commands Hosea: Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery.

Reading between the lines and reconstructing the sequence of events from various statements by Hosea, we get the following picture. At one point the Lord must have said to Hosea, do you know that Gomer is living in the slums of Samaria with a man who cannot look after her? Yes, said the prophet, I am aware of it. Well, the Lord said, I want you to go down to the market and buy plenty of food and clothing and see that she gets them.

It must have been hard for Hosea to obey this order, but he did it. He bought the food and clothes and took it to the house where he knew his wife was staying. There he met not Gomer, but her lover. Are you the man who is living with Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim? Yes, but what is that to you, the man replied. I am Hosea her husband, was the answer.

The man must have been taken aback, wondering if Hosea had come to pick a fight. I understand you are not in a position to take care of my wife, so I brought these things. Here, take them and make sure she gets them.

I'm sure that the man must have scratched his head wondering if Hosea was in his right mind. But he took the groceries and the clothes and then, scoundrel that he was, he went to Gomer and said: Look dear, what I bought you, and she, foolish woman that she was, believed him. Throwing her arms around him, she thanked him and gave him the love that she should have given to her husband.

While all this was going on, Hosea might have lingered in the shadows to make sure Gomer got the goods he had purchased for her. We have his comments on her shameful conduct in chapter 2:8. After she had said, I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, etc. (vs.5), Hosea comments: She did not know or acknowledge that I gave her corn and wine and oil and multiplied her silver and gold which they prepared for Baal.

In these words we have God's complaint about his unfaithful and unthankful people Israel. It was a complaint rooted in and illustrated by the actual experience Hosea had with Gomer.

We see here a clear illustration of the love of God. That love knows no bounds! What we would never do, take valuable money and spend it on a worthless woman, He does all the time. We constantly spurn God's love and squander His resources, but He still loves us and provides for us, doesn't He? The comments of Donald Grey Barnhouse on this passage are worth quoting.

The pursuing love of God is the greatest wonder of the spiritual universe. When we see this love at work through the heart of Hosea we may wonder if God is really like that. But everything in the Word and in the experience of believers shows us that. Have you ever run away from God? Of course you have. And has He not taken you back? Of course He has. Because God is love and because in this way He teaches us to know what miserable creatures we are and who He is in His love and mercy. But also in His justice and holiness.

Let us not forget these attributes either. We have not reached the end of the story yet. Although it is true that God provides even for those who run away from Him and pursues them, this does not mean that such sinners will have an easy time of it. The way of transgressors is hard. The love of God is tremendous. It is faithful and persevering, but it is also a disciplining love. Today we would call it tough love.

When Gomer did not recognize Hosea's hand in the gifts bestowed on her, the next step was for him to withhold even these basic necessities from her. This is what the Lord did with Israel too. Because Israel continued to be unfaithful and unthankful, the Lord began to chastise her in various ways. Notice the three-fold therefore in this chapter. First in verse 6, Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, the Lord warns. Israel will chase after her lovers but she will not catch them. She will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, I will go back to my first husband for then it was better with me than now (vs.7).

God can set a hedge around us to protect us, but He can also do so to keep us from getting the sinful things we desire. When this does not bring us back to Him, the Lord may even take away the necessities of life. After hedging up Israel's ways, Jehovah proceeded to remove the grain, the wine, the wool and the flax or linen. This is indicated by the second therefore mentioned in verse 9: Therefore I will return and take away my grain in its time and my wine in its season, and will take back my wool and my linen given to cover her nakedness, etc.

Here we see to what lengths the Lord goes to bring sinners back to Himself. Like the prodigal son, who only started to think about going home when sitting at the swine trough, he came to himself.

This is true of sinners when they are first brought to repentance, as well as believers who have gone astray. This is the focus here. Hosea is a book about and for backsliders. We see God's great love as He seeks to bring back those who have left Him for other lovers such as the world and the pleasures of sin, which Satan conjures up and tempts us with.

The devil promises much but delivers little. Do you realize this? Have the fruits of sin turned bitter in your mouth yet? Do you recall better times, when you enjoyed fellowship with your Lord and Saviour? Maybe the Lord is hedging up your ways. That's why it is so dry and barren in your soul and why God's hand is so heavy on you.

Is it not high time to return to your first husband? If you are not persuaded yet, maybe the Lord will have to do what He did with Israel next. We read in verse 14 another therefore, the third one. Therefore, behold, I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness and speak comfortably unto her.

In our next study we will see what the Lord means by alluring Israel. Let me give you a hint already. The Lord does not only use harsh methods to bring His people back to Himself. He does not only come with the terrors of His law, but He also woos sinners with the sweet Gospel of His pardoning love.

O love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee.
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thy ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

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