Most people today have been influenced by Hollywood and Nashville to believe that love is either only erotic or romantic. But genuine love is not merely a feeling or physical attration. Though, thankfully, love can include those things, but love must be more than this baser elements.
We use the word “love” so flippantly today. It used to describe everything from our favorite food to our lifelong companion. Love surely doesn’t mean the same thing in all of these situations. But real love is on display in this chapter in the story of Hosea’s love for Gomer which is itself a reflection of God’s love for Israel. This love is shown in chapter 3 to be a reclaiming love, a redeeming love, a renewing love and a restoring love.
Then the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.” 2 So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley. 3 And I said to her, “You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man–so, too, will I be toward you.” 4 For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim. 5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days.
I. Reclaiming Love, v. 1
In verse one we see that God’s love for the nation of Israel is a reclaiming love. The LORD commands Hosea to “Go again” and “love a woman” who “is committing adultery”. This, He says, is what my love for adulterous Israel looks like!
Notice that the word “love” or a derivation thereof is used four times in this verse. Three of these four times the word “love” has a different connotation. The only time when the meaning is shared is Hosea’s love for Gomer and Yahweh’s love for Israel. In the first instance, Hosea is commanded to love his adulterous wife. In this case, the verb love means to persistently pursue. It probably does not mean to feel fond of or be physically attracted to, but to actively show love in reclaiming an adulterous wife from a life of sin. This is the same kind of love that Yahweh has for the children of Israel who are also adulterous in their pursuit of false gods.
In the second instance, Gomer is said to be loved by a lover. Here the meaning is no doubt an erotic or sexual love. This is clarified in the next phrase as this action is described as adultery.
In the final instance, the children of Israel are said to “love” the raisin cakes of the pagans. There is a different here in some translations. The Hebrew text simply says that they loved the grapes. Some interpret this as a reference to grapes that have been turned into wine. Most, however, believe this to be a reference to dried grapes “raisins” that have been pressed together into cakes. These “raisin cakes” were often used in pagan worship.
Now we see the depth of the folly of Israel’s idolatry. They have forsaken the persistent, pursuing, faithful love of their rightful husband to commit spiritual adultery with a false god and love for Little Debbies©! What a contrast! God loves Israel with an everlasting active love, but Israel loves “raisin cakes”! This is the folly that Jeremiah speaks of in Jeremiah 2:11-13,
Has a nation changed its gods, Which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory For what does not profit. 12 Be astonished, O heavens, at this, And be horribly afraid; Be very desolate,” says the LORD. 13 “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns — broken cisterns that can hold no water.
What folly!!! Forsaking the eternal God of glory for that which “does not profit”! Yet, this is what Israel did! And, it is exactly what you and I do! When we allow our “love” for anything replace our love for God Himself! Yet God’s love sought them out!!! God’s love is faithful!!!
II. Redeeming Love, v. 2.
Not only is God’s love for His people a reclaiming love, it is also a redeeming love! Not many details are given here, but from what is stated we can assume that Gomer has become a slave!
There were three main ways in which one could become a slave in that day: by conquest, birth or debt. You were either enslaved as a defeated enemy, born to parents who were slaves, or you had become so indebted that you were sold as a slave to pay off your debts. This final way is the way in which Gomer had become a slave. This is how low she has fallen. From being the wife of a prophet of God to being sold as a common slave at an auction.
Gomer’s sin had truly taken her further than she wanted to go, cost her more than she wanted to pay, and kept her longer than she wanted to stay! She now found herself up for auction on a slave market. We can surmise this based upon the word that is used for “bought” is a word that is used for haggling over a price or bidding. We can also assume that Gomer was being bought at a slave auction by the price that was paid. In Exodus 21:32, the price of a slave is set at 30 shekels of silver. Here the price is 15 shekels of silver with the rest of the price being made up in grain (a homer and a half of barley). This would probably have equaled the worth of 15 shekels of silver. But the price given indicates that Hosea may have given everything to purchase his wife back. He bids all his shekels of silver, then all his barley. Everything of value that he has is given in order to redeem his wayward wife. Can you hear the bidding? After the bidding reaches 15 shekels of silver, I can imagine Hosea in desperation to obey God’s command to again love his adulterous wife, cries out with a price that ends the bidding: “Fifteen shekels and a homer and a half of barley!” “Going once, going twice, . . . Sold!”
What a beautiful picture we see here of Christ’s redemption of sinners. You and I were as low as we could go. We were on that slave market of sin, but Jesus Christ gave His all to redeem us. He didn’t pay 15 shekels and a homer and a half of barley, but His own precious and costly blood! As Peter says in 1 Peter 1:18-19,
Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
This is redeeming love that has been shown to us in Christ (John 3:16 and Romans 5:8)! 1 John 3:16 says, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.”
III. Renewing Love, vv. 3-4.
In these verses we see that Yahweh’s love for Israel is not only a reclaiming and redeeming love, it is also a renewing love.
Verse three records what Hosea told Gomer after redeeming her from the slave market. He essentially says that she will live with him in the same house, but they will not resume their intimate relationship immediately. Instead there will be a period of “many days” of purity. This is a time of celibacy. It is not to last forever, but for “many days”. Afterwards, we can assume, normal relations between Hosea and Gomer as husband and wife would resume. This seems a little too personal for us to be talking about, doesn’t it? Well, more is going on here than the private love life of Hosea and Gomer. Verse four explains the significance of the period of abstinence from the marital bed of Hosea and Gomer.
This period of marital celibacy, like everything else in Hosea’s marriage, is used by God to illustrate His relationship with the children of Israel. The children of Israel will also experience a period characterized by a lack of intimacy. Verse four states that they will be for “many days” without proper rulers “king or prince”, without proper worship “sacrifice” or “ephod”, and without improper worship, i.e. idolatry “sacred pillar” or “teraphim”. This is a proper description of Israel’s history. Without leadership (there has not been a king since before Christ), without priesthood (there has not been a priesthood or sacrificial system since the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70), and without idolatry (for all Israel’s rejection of Jesus Christ, they have not fallen back into idolatry). This is the period in Israel’s history described by the apostle Paul in Romans 11:25 in these words:
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
But yet there is hope! In verse four we see that this period is for “many days” not eternity and in Romans 11:25 we see that this blindness has happened “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” In other words, things will change one day. This is because God’s love is not only a reclaiming, redeeming and renewing love, it is also a restoring love!
IV. Restoring Love, v. 5.
“Afterward . . .”! The children of Israel will be restored by the love of God. Not necessarily as a political entity, but as the people of God engrafted together into the one tree of Romans 11 together with Gentiles. There will be a restoration. This is described in Romans 11:25-32,
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. (26) And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: (27) For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. (28) As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. (29) For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. (30) For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: (31) Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. (32) For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
This is also described by the LORD Himself through the prophet Zechariah in Zechariah 12:10 as follows:
And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.
This will happen at the return of Christ, when Israel sees their Messiah in all of His resurrected glory returning in the clouds. Then every living Jew will believe and be united together with all believers (Jews and Gentiles) throughout history in the body of Christ. A few verses later in Zechariah 13:1 we are told:
In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.
This is the fountain described by the hymn writer William Cowper as “a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.” This is what all who have ever believed have experienced and it is what Israel will one day experience when their Messiah appears to them again in all His glory!
No wonder Paul concludes his meditation on this event with the doxology of Romans 11:33-36:
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (34) For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? (35) Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? (36) For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
What is our response to the reclaiming, redeeming, renewing and restoring love of Yahweh? There are two main responses that we should have:
The first response should be a recognition that our allegiances doubly belong to the God who has created and redeemed us! We belong to Him twice! He made us and bought us back! As Isaac Watts wrote: “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!!!”
The second response should be anticipation for the day when Christ returns. Turmoil in the Middle East will end. It could be today when Christ appears and vanquishes all His enemies, restores His people and establishes His everlasting kingdom! What a thrill to know that God’s love will be triumphant over all!