Yesterday, through the metaphor of Hosea’s marriage to unfaithful Gomer, God accused Israel of sleeping with other lovers: thinking that the Canaanite fertility gods and goddesses were the ones who were providing for her, rather than recognising that it all came from God, her husband. So he decided to withhold his providential care – leaving Israel to the mercy of her Canaanite “gods,” to let her find out how well that goes. Having experienced drought and famine, she might decide she was “better off” with God after all.
A hot date in the desert
But God isn’t leaving things to chance. Just as in chapter one we saw judgement followed by restoration, things abruptly change here in chapter two. You could be forgiven for thinking that Israel’s adultery means the marriage is over. Well, it is (see verse 2 from yesterday). But God’s not going to let it end that way.
2:14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.
After all she’s done!!
He’s going to go out and try to win her back. She doesn’t deserve that!
No she doesn’t. But that’s just what God does. And romantic that he is, he even books a table in the desert, where it all began; the scene of their first kiss.2:15a There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
God will restore her. To the point that the Valley of Achor (“Valley of Trouble”), which was the scene of Achan’s disobedience (Josh 7:24-26), will no longer be a reminder of Israel’s rebellion but a symbol of hope. (Fun fact: The Hebrew for “hope” sounds the same as the word for “thread” – the word used of another reformed prostitute who left a scarlet thread in hope that her family would be spared when Israel attacked Jericho.)2:15b There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
And since he’s God, he knows his romantic plan will work. They’ll recapture their love and it’ll be just like the old days when they first got married and moved into that tiny apartment (but without the frogs, gnats, dead Egyptians, and nothing-but-leftover-manna-on-Saturday-nights). I’m getting into this metaphor a little too much, aren’t I.
But notice, if you will, how God is going to lead them out into the desert on the other side of the Jordan, so he can carry her over the threshold again (sorry) into the Promised Land. A bit like when all the people came out to see John the Baptist to repent, and be baptised ready for when God brought about their true return from exile. Or when Jesus re-enacted their wilderness wandering, and this time got it right.
What’s more:2:16 “In that day,” declares the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’
God’s people will finally get what kind of a relationship they’re in: a loving marriage covenant, not a commercial transaction for sex.2:17 I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked.
How will that happen? Sounds like they might need a new heart, not just a quick makeover. (Just joining some of the dots, for those who ploughed through the Why Jesus? series during February.)2:18 In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety.
Peace with nature, and peace with one another. That’s the sound of some Genesis curses being undone.
And they’re going to do the whole “renewal of vows” thing, long before it became trendy:2:19-20 I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD.
And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees… oh, hang on, that’s Ezekiel. But I think you get the direction Hosea is heading.2:21-23 “In that day I will respond,” declares the LORD— “I will respond to the skies, and they will respond to the earth; and the earth will respond to the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, and they will respond to Jezreel. I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.'”
God’s providential care will no longer be withheld. God’s love will no longer be withheld. And again, they will be called his people, and he will be called their God.
God will go out into the desert to win his wife back. (Ever wondered why Jesus so often used the metaphor of a bridegroom to refer to himself?) They’ll get married all over again, and this time it will be happily ever after.
Now that’s the point in the story we’re at, post-Easter, post-Pentecost. And I won’t labour it, since I think the Jesus bit is clear enough. Today, spend some time contemplating how – despite the fact that we were the ones who were unfaithful – it was God who made the first move. It was God who bore the consequences of our unfaithfulness. It was God who set out to court us all over again.
We’re almost finished this first section of Hosea. But there is a postscript, which we’ll look at tomorrow.