330 - The Faithless Wife (Hosea 1–3)
Some lessons are best taught through life experiences, whether good or bad. God gave His prophet Hosea a difficult task, but his faithful pursuit of his unfaithful wife gives us powerful insight into the heart of God, who longs to be joined in fellowship with His people.
The Faithless Wife
Our Wisdom Journey now brings us to the last twelve books of the Old Testament, which are called the Minor Prophets. They are not called minor prophets because they were not good enough to make it into the big leagues—the major leagues—so to speak.
They are called the Minor Prophets only because of their brevity—they are brief prophetic messages. But let me tell you, they are all going to hit a home run when it comes to delivering the message of God to His people.
Now we have seen that it hasn’t been unusual for God to not only have His prophets deliver a message but also to act out the message in some physical way. For instance, God had Isaiah dress like a prisoner of war for three years; for several months, Jeremiah carried a yoke on his shoulders; and Ezekiel was told by God to get a haircut and a shave.
Each of these actions illustrated something God wanted to communicate to His people. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that the most painful sermon illustration God ever had one of His prophets live out was the faithful love of the prophet Hosea toward his tragically unfaithful wife.
In the Old Testament, God’s relationship to His people is often described as that of a groom to his bride (Isaiah 62:4-5). But we are about to see a dark side to that relationship, as God uses Hosea’s adulterous wife to illustrate Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.
The book of Hosea is the first of the Minor Prophets. Hosea ministered in the northern kingdom of Israel, during the reigns of several kings, including Jeroboam II. Under Jeroboam’s reign, Israel enjoyed peace and economic prosperity (2 Kings 14:23-28). But the nation was spiritually corrupt and headed toward divine judgment for their unfaithfulness toward God.
The book of Hosea opens with one of the strangest commands recorded in the Bible:
The Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer. (verses 2-3)
Now I believe God is telling Hosea to marry a woman who will become a harlot and an adulterer. He didn’t go down to the street corner and propose to some prostitute. He is being warned by God ahead of time that this is the kind of woman his wife will become.
Their marriage is going to become an illustration of Israel, who was “married” to the Lord by covenant, as it were, but had committed spiritual adultery “by forsaking the Lord.” Hosea and his wife Gomer will illustrate this broken relationship and at the same time demonstrate God’s incredible mercy and love.
In the meantime, Hosea and Gomer have several children. Their names are chosen by the Lord, and they have special significance. The first child is a boy named Jezreel (verse 4). The symbolism of his name is found in events related to the city of Jezreel. That was where Jehu killed Queen Jezebel and the house of Ahab as God’s judgment upon that wicked dynasty. But Jehu went beyond what God commanded in judgment, and he ended up killing King Ahaziah of Judah, as well, along with many of Ahaziah’s relatives (2 Kings 9–10).
So, the name of Hosea’s boy, Jezreel, is a prophetic statement that God will punish the house of Jehu. Jeroboam II, under whom Hosea is serving, is Jehu’s grandson. Jeroboam’s son Zechariah will be murdered, ending Jehu’s dynasty.
The name of Hosea’s son, Jezreel, also foretells the end of the kingdom of Israel, which will be defeated and its power broken in the Valley of Jezreel.
Hosea and Gomer then have a second child, as recorded in verse 6. This little girl is named Lo-ruhamah, which means “No Mercy.” Her name is a sign that there will be no more mercy for Israel. Divine judgment is certain.
Then there is a third child born, another boy this time, and he is given the Hebrew name Lo-ammi, which means “Not My People.” The Lord explains in verse 9, “For you are not my people, and I am not your God.” In other words, He is disowning these Israelites as His people.
Now understand that the Lord is not withdrawing the covenant He made with Abraham—that covenant is unconditional. But the Israelites of this generation have reached the point in their sin and rebellion that they will no longer enjoy the blessings of God’s presence and protection. It’s not because God did not want them but because they no longer wanted God.
With that, Hosea now delivers some prophetic words of hope here in verse 10:
Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”
This prophecy looks ahead to the coming millennial reign of Christ, when the nation of Israel will serve their Messiah in the coming kingdom.
Now chapter 2 focuses again on Israel’s spiritual adultery with Hosea’s family as the illustration. Even the children are pleading with their mother to return.
Their unfaithful mother has become an illustration of unfaithful Israel pursuing other gods like a prostitute pursuing other lovers. Verse 8 says that Israel has turned away from the one who gave them “the grain, the wine, and the oil . . . silver and gold; which they used for Baal.”
All these gifts from God are given to false gods. God promises in verse 13, “I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals, when she … went after her lovers and forgot me.”
Then, once again, we see a dramatic shift from the Lord’s condemnation of His unfaithful bride to a compassionate invitation to return. He says in verse 14, “I will allure her . . . and speak tenderly to her.” He even promises a future restored marriage:
“I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” (verses 19-20)
What a promise to the faithful Jewish people who will suffer for the nation’s adultery, yet cling to the hope of God’s promise of a future restoration in the coming kingdom of Christ.
Chapter 3 returns to the ongoing situation with Hosea and his adulterous wife. The Lord tells Hosea here in verse 1:
“Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods.”
“Hosea, go get your wife back!” What an incredible and painful command. Yet Hosea obeys. And keep in mind that Hosea is acting toward his unfaithful wife like God acts toward His unfaithful people. We are told here in verse 2 that Hosea goes and pays this man with whom his wife is living fifteen shekels of silver and ten bushels of barley to buy her back. That was a cheap price, by the way—the price of an old slave in those days.
Hosea’s loving, faithful pursuit of Gomer serves as a living example to this day of God’s love for Israel—and even beyond Israel, to you and me today.
We had nothing to offer our Redeemer. We were unfaithful and sinful. But God loves us, and even while we were sinners, the Bible says, Jesus Christ redeemed us. He bought us out of the slave market of sin; He purchased us with His own life blood, so that He could become our faithful Groom and we could become His bride forever.
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament Prophets (David C. Cook, 2002), 316.
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