God is willing to do the unthinkable to restore his kingdom and our relationship with him. In Hosea, we can better understand God’s love for us despite our sin.
This message is based on Hosea 3:1-5.
This is the third week in our series where we’re looking to the Old Testament for symbols that point to Jesus. There are several passages in the Old Testament where we see God calling a prophet to do something, something really strange, to get people’s attention. In Ezekiel 4 Ezekiel is commanded to lay on his side for 390 days and to eat food cooked over human excrement. Ezekiel wasn’t willing to go that far, and God told him he could use cow manure instead. That qualifies as pretty strange, right?
But here in the book of Hosea, we see one that’s really strange. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the story of Hosea. He was prophet around 785 BC, which makes him a contemporary of Micah and Isaiah, following right after Amos. Amos prophesied primarily in the southern kingdom, in Judah, Hosea was in the northern kingdom, in Israel.
Hosea is one of those books I’m betting a lot of you aren’t really familiar with. At this time, Israel is pretty prosperous, it’s a wealthy land. It’s a good time to live in Israel. Things are just great. Also, they are at peace. There haven’t been any enemies knocking on their doors in generations, since the time of David, so they’ve had about 200 years peace. So they have wealth, and they have peace. Things are good.
But, a lot of times in history, when things were going great, people didn’t seem to see their need for God, and so they strayed from God. And when there is great wealth and prosperity, coupled with unfaithfulness, we often see sexual immorality being practiced to extremes. We see that now, don’t we? In America today, we’re the richest country in the world, we’ve had prolonged time of peace, at least in our borders, we’re straying from God, and we’re seeing increased sexual immorality.
So let’s get to the strange stuff. In Chapter 1, God commands Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer. There’s some symbolism here, Gomer represents the Israelite people, who have committed spiritual adultery against God. Hosea marries her, and she conceives, and bears a son, God tells Hosea to Jezreel, which means God sows. Not a bad name. It gets stranger fast. They have a second child, a daughter, and God tells them to name her Lo-Ruhamah, which really means not loved, they named their daughter not loved. God gave them the name because God would not show love to Israel. He would save Judah, but he would not show love to Israel.
Then they have another son, who God tells them to name Lo-Ammi, which means not my people. The second child was named not loved, the third, not mine. Some commentaries suggest that Gomer had strayed again, and this child was with another man, and that’s why the name. It doesn’t say that, I think God is saying that Israel strayed, and they were no longer His people.
Chapter 2 talks about how Gomer leaves Hosea, she commits adultery, returns to prostitution, and it seems she’ll bed down with anybody that will have her. Just bouncing from man to man. Not a good situation for anybody, especially not for the wife of a prophet.
This brings us to this morning’s reading in Chapter 3. God tells Hosea to take her back. It said in verse 1, “The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.’” The sacred raisin cakes were used in pagan rituals and festivals. The Israelites loved pagan worship and worshiped other gods.
By this time, Gomer has got herself in a bit of trouble, she is apparently held as a slave, and verse 2 says Gomer has to buy her back, he pays fifteen shekels of silver and some barley. He buys her out of slavery. Is this starting to get good? Is this starting to remind you of somebody else? Didn’t Jesus buy us, weren’t we slaves to sin, just like Gomer? Maybe not the same sin, but we’re all sinners, we were all bondage to sin before coming to Jesus. Didn’t Jesus have to redeem us, to pay the price for our sin? Are you starting to see a parallel between Hosea and Jesus? We see Jesus’ love through Hosea as he pays the price for the return of his wife. Just as Jesus paid the price for the redemption of us when we were still sinners.
So the story of Gomer is little story that points to a much greater story, the story of redemption that can be ours through Jesus. We’re going to unpack this a little more, and as we do, I want to give you two reasons why Jesus is the better Hosea.
1. Hosea is honorable – Jesus is perfect. Let me explain. As Hosea pursues Gomer as an honorable bridegroom, Jesus pursues you as a perfect bridegroom. Now notice the difference, Hosea was honorable, Jesus was perfect. Hosea did the honorable thing, he listened to God, he rescued his wife. I think one of the themes of the book of Hosea is that if you want to really understand our relationship with God, we need to understand the relationship between a husband and wife. I think one of the reason we have marriage is to show us the relationship that we should have with God. It’s a tangible model of our relationship with God.
And it’s not a theme that’s found only in Hosea, we can see it in Jeremiah, chapters 2-4 is rich with this marriage imagery. Ezekiel 16 shows it as well. Isaiah 54:5 says, “For your maker is your husband – the Lord Almighty is his name.” In John 3:30, we’re probably familiar with John the Baptists saying, “He must become greater, I must become less,” or “he must increase, and I must decrease.” But if you read the verses before that, he’s using the context of Jesus being the perfect bridegroom, and the bride belongs to the bridegroom. It’s a picture of marriage. A healthy marriage relationship mirrors a healthy relationship with God.
There are a lot of names of Jesus, we see him referred to a lot of ways. Know that Jesus is King, he is the ultimate shepherd who will provide for us and keep us safe, He is the perfect Father, who will guard your hearts and be there for you. But know Him also as the perfect husband who will pursue you and embrace you and have the most intimate and secure relationship with you that anyone could possibly have on earth. If you want to have a relationship with Jesus, we need to understand that relationship in the context of a husband and wife, in the marriage context. Gomer was an honorable husband, he did the right thing. Jesus is the perfect husband, totally right, totally without error. We can trust in Him for everything.
2. Hosea paid money, Christ paid more. Hosea had to pay money for Gomer’s redemption, Jesus had to go all the way to the cross for ours. It doesn’t really spell it out in the text, but I sounds like Hosea had to go to an auction, a slave auction, to get his wife. If that’s the case, in those days, she would have been stripped naked on the auction block so any potential bidders could see exactly what they might be getting. She would have been embarrassed to the hilt, in front of everybody. She was a slave, being sold.
He had good reasons walk away, to divorce her, to leave her. To move on with his life without her. She had been unfaithful. She was the one that walked out on him at least a year ago. She lived with many other men during that year. And Hosea had every right to just let her go. To forget about her. But God said go get her. And he did. And he had to pay for her. It cost him about 6 ounces of silver, and about 10 bushels of barley.
And when he got her home, he told her that you will no longer play the role of the prostitute. It says in verse 3, “Then I told her, ‘You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.” Hosea isn’t naive. He knows this isn’t going to be easy. Do you think they had some things to work out when they got home? But do you think that Gomer knew the value of redemption at that point. I think so. She knew that she had lost everything, she didn’t deserve anything. And she knew that her husband, who she had treated so badly, who owed her nothing, rescued her. He saved her.
That’s a really remarkable story, isn’t it. But we have an even better story. Because we have an even better redeemer. Let’s look at Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” You see, Jesus redeemed us. He saved us, He rescued us.
We were spiritual prostitutes. We were living in sin, not at all living the way our Father in Heaven would have us live. But Jesus pursued us just as Hosea pursued Gomer. Just as Gomer had chased things other than Hosea, we have all chased things other than God. But Jesus has redeemed us. It’s like we were all on the auction block, stripped down to the point that we could hide nothing, Jesus saw it all. And He said, “I’ve got that one.” She is mine. He is mine. I’m redeeming them.
Now we heard the end of chapter 3, verse 4, “For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or idol.” This was the prophecy of an invasion and an exile. That Israel would live away from God, as it were, for a period of time, just as Gomer did when she left Hosea and got herself in to trouble. Just as we did when we lived in sin, walking apart from God, not knowing Jesus.
Then in verse 5, “Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king [at least a king in the line of David, a descendant of David]. They will come trembling to the Lord and to his blessings in the last days.” This was the prophecy that one day Israel would return to their land, and be self-ruling again, and return to the Lord. And we saw how Gomer did that when Hosea redeemed her. And we know that the nation of Israel was able to do that after the Babylonian exile, but most importantly, we need to know that for everyone one of us, we can do that, because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. He redeemed us, He saved us, He restored us so that we could come home.
The big idea of the book of Hosea, and certainly of our message this morning, is that God is willing to do the incredible, the unthinkable, to restore our relationship with Him. He did the unthinkable with Hosea and Gomer. And if you’re willing to be really honest about your own sin, He did the unthinkable for you.