You know you’ve messed up. How could anyone love you anymore? No matter what you do, there is nothing that can atone for your mistakes. Yet your husband comes and pursues you, like you are priceless. What kind of love is this?
Adultery and Idolatry
Over the past couple of months, I have been studying the minor prophets. Each book has a beautiful story of redemption and hope. If I had to choose, I would say that Hosea is my favorite minor prophet.
Israel and Judah had been divided for around 200 years. Hosea lived in Israel, the northern kingdom, during the days of King Jeroboam II. These were times of great sin and idolatry. God called Hosea to be a messenger to the rebellious people of Israel.
God’s first command to Hosea was to take a wife who was a prostitute. “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land that commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord” (Hosea 1:2). When we first read this, it doesn’t make any sense. Why would God ask Hosea to marry a prostitute? Let’s go back up to Exodus to understand what is going on.
In Exodus 19, right after the Israelites escaped from Egypt, God made a covenant with Israel.
“You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Theses are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel” (Exodus 19:4-6).
God had promised Israel to be their God, as long as they followed after Him. In scriptures, we see God referring to Israel as His bride. However, we know that if we continue reading, we see endless cycles of apostasy (turning away from God). God’s people, His chosen nation that were supposed to be set apart, had fallen into idolatry. This is where the book of Hosea comes into play.
He Is Faithful to the Unfaithful
Hosea obeyed God and married Gomer, a prostitute. Despite the fact that Hosea was faithful, Gomer was not. She slept with other men, forsaking the covenant she made with her husband. God commanded Hosea to redeem his wife. So he pursued her and paid her debts, despite her unfaithfulness.
Gomer is a representation of Israel, the unfaithful wife. Despite the fact that God is constant, faithful, and sure, Israel steps away from the God who truly loves her. God doesn’t just let Israel go. He redeems her. He pursues her.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 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. And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband’, and no longer you call me ‘My Baal’. For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered no more. 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 on the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord” (Hosea 2:14-20).
The book of Hosea goes on to describe the judgement of Israel. They sinned, so because of God’s justice, He punished them. Eventually they were taken captive by Assyria. Because God loved His people so much, He didn’t let his children continue in their sin. But with every proclamation of judgement, God is faithful to bring forth hope. In Hosea 2:20, God was promising Israel that one day they would live together in perfect righteousness and justice – in perfect love and mercy. This is a picture of what Christ brings.
His Love Pursues and Purifies
After Christ died on the cross, He made a way for all to be made right before God. The Old Covenant was abolished, and the New Covenant was established. Through Jesus’ blood, we are healed. We are made pure. Now the church is the bride. We are the unfaithful prostitute, but Jesus pursues us. Not because we could ever offer Him anything. He gave up everything to pay our debts, to make us white as snow. We are now waiting for our husband to return.
So often when we think about love, we think about another person bringing us happiness. We love people who make us feel good. We love people who treat us kindly. We love people who are faithful to us.
But true love isn’t about us. God’s love is perfect. It’s incomparable. It’s infinite. It’s unstoppable. God’s perfect love is never based on what we have done, or how we make Him feel.
God pursued us when we went after other men. That’s true love.
We’ve all messed up. Our hearts aren’t pure. We’ve been unfaithful. We’ve made mistakes that make us believe that we’re unfit to enter into God’s presence. And all those things are true… at least, they were.
That’s why Jesus stepped down from Heaven’s throne. He took our shame upon Himself. He paid our debts so that we can be pure. We can be made new. No matter how badly you have messed up, God’s love reaches to the darkest places. It’s reaching out to you….. the greatest proposal of all time. Say “yes” and you are forgiven. Jesus has clothed you in a beautiful white dress, for you are His bride.
“‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’ —for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” (Revelation 19:6-8).