Set Apart By God's Love
1. In the second half of chapter two of the prophetic message, the personal relationship of Hosea and Gomer retreats into the background and the relationship of Israel and God as the Lord is dealt with. But, as we go into chapter three, the relationship of the prophet Hosea and Gomer is back again at the forefront. In chapter one, conditions concerning the marriage of Hosea and Gomer and the birth of their children were spoken in the third person, but here the later events are recorded as his own words in the first person.
Go And Love Her
2. I will begin by reading verses one and two.
"The Lord spoke again to me. 'Go and love the woman who commits adultery though she is loved by her husband- just as the Lord has still loved the people of Israel even though they have turned their faces to other gods and have loved their raisin cakes.' Then I paid fifteen silver shekels and a homer and a lethech of barley and bought her back," (3:1-2).
4. "Indict her. Indict your mothers. She is no longer my wife and I am no longer her husband," (2:4). In chapter two we heard those words in the anger of Hosea. Because Gomer betrayed Hosea [his words] were not unreasonable. But, since they were not really wife and husband any more, Hosea had no need to say anything more than this regarding Gomer. But then, it seemed both his anger and grief soon passed away. His pain also seemed to become a thing of the past. But, the truth was not that simple because the reason for all his anger and grief and continued speaking was that Gomer was still his wife. Though a harlot and though her heart was ever so distant from her husband, Gomer was to Hosea an irreplaceable and priceless wife and he was her husband. Therefore, his anger was great and his grief deep.
5. In the midst of this such anger, sorrow, and suffering, he heard God's voice. It was a message of God's anger that burned hard against the Israelites [acting] like an adulterous woman. But furthermore, it was also a message of God's love that burned hotly for them. Hosea knew that God still loved Israel the way they were. Though betrayed, God still wanted Israel to be his true wife. God's desire was in that Israel truly turn to God as her true husband, call the Lord "my husband" again (2:18), and for the name of Baal who has been her partner in adultery to be removed from her lips.
6. Hosea, who knew the love of God who still strongly loves those who turn their backs on him, heard the voice of the Lord again. That is the message we read today. The Lord spoke to Hosea like this, "Go and love the woman who is committing adultery even though she is loved by her husband."
7. When he had heard the voice [from above] what kind of situation was he in? Where had Gomer been at that time? We don't know the details. But, because [God] says, "Go," I'm sure that Gomer was not with Hosea any more. He went and redeemed her paying out fifteen shekels of silver and one homer and one lethech of barley. That fact that he had to redeem her means that she had been in a slave like situation. Had she, who had left chasing after other men, fallen so low that she turned to prostitution? As we consider the religious situation of her times, we might suppose that she had become a temple prostitute serving in Baal worship services. As I said previously, Baal was considered owner of the earth and people thought that the crops of the earth brought forth their yields by the sexual relationship between Baal and the goddess of the earth Asherah. In that context, in the Baal festivals the relationship of Baal and Asherah were imitated and sexual acts were performed among the worshippers and the temple prostitutes in the shrines. It would not be wrong to think that she who had sought after wealth and fulfilling her cravings had finally turned out to be a cult prostitute for Baal.
8. At any rate, the Lord commanded Hosea to love the adulterous woman who was in such a miserable state that he had to redeem her in cash like that. "Go and love the woman who is committing adultery even though she is loved by her husband." The Lord required Hosea to love Gomer completely through thick and thin. When seen from the common sense of the world this requirement will surely be seen as foolish to do. But, Hosea could not resist God's command because he knew God's will about it and because he knew that what God commanded was something that God himself was actually doing with respect to Israel.
9. "Just as the Lord has still loved the people of Israel even though they have turned their faces to other gods and have loved their raisin cakes." The raisin cakes mentioned were a luxury item back then. At the harvest festival of the grape in the fall, it was something that they used in the festival service for Baal. In this way they forsook their genuine relationships with the Lord and were impassioned at the festival in seeking for a crop and material abundance. It was no longer to the Lord as their husband that they were turning their faces but to other gods. However, the Lord still loved them as they were. This love from the Lord spurred Hosea on towards Gomer. Thus, he went to redeem the adulterous woman as the Lord told him to.
10. In order to redeem Gomer he paid out fifteen shekels of silver and one homer and one lethech of barley. In all it was probably thirty shekels or so. If that's true, then it was the price of one slave (Exodus 21:32). At any rate, it wasn't a small amount of money. Hosea did pay a considerable sacrifice. By having paid the sacrifice for his mate who was rather detestable by her very nature he had accepted her in. I don't think Hosea accomplished this without pain and suffering. "Loving someone" is different from "liking someone." To accept a person that is desirable to you doesn't [typically] include pain or suffering. But, loving someone includes pain, suffering, and actual sacrifice. At least it had that meaning in the "Go and love" that God commanded Hosea. And this very love was but the love that God himself had for Israel. We know where this love of God leads to in the end. Because loving involves sacrifice, God's love will ultimately lead to the place where he will sacrifice his one and only son. Thus, the same Lord God speaking in Hosea is but the same God who gave us Christ.
Set Apart By God's Love
11. Well, let's read on ahead. Hose redeemed her and said to her:
"I said to her, 'Don't commit adultery. Don't snort after other men, but spend a long time with me. I, too, will stay with you,'" (3:3).
13. In this way Hosea pulled Gomer out of the life she had been having. She separated from relations with other men and sought to only be with Hosea. Of course, it's not that Gomer's heart immediately went back to Hosea even if she said she would. Therefore, Hosea knew that this compulsory separation would be long term. In this case he needed an extraordinary patience. This period of time might be painful for Gomer, but it was painful for Hosea as well. But, Hosea knew how to appreciate this long term, this waiting hard and waiting in pain. In the words "I too will remain with you," we can feel Hosea's resolve.
14. Thus, the new life of Hosea and Gomer began. And just as Hosea used to know God's anger by his own angry state, now Hosea had come to know the plans God had for Israel in the new life that he spent in his great patience with Gomer. Therefore, Hosea changes his speech to Israel and continues his talk like this:
"The Israelites will spend a long period without king or court, without sacrifice or holy pillars, without ephod or teraphim," (3:4).
16. "Without king or court" means Israel as a nation would be destroyed. The country would collapse and the people led away to a foreign land and become captives. The holy pillars* were pillars of rock for the festivals. The ephod was clothing used in the ceremonies. Teraphim were small statues All of these things had something to do with the Baal festivals that they were so crazy for. In other words, the very Baal services that they would not stop seeking for would be lost together with the breakdown of the nation. Thus, the prosperity they were seeking for with Baal would be lost with Baal. This particular situation is expressed in chapter two as "the wilderness," (2:16). It was the wilderness where God was alluring and leading Israel to and would become the place that he would speak to their hearts. In chapter three the same thing is expressed with the message in Hosea's life. In that chapter it speaks of a new life separated from her adulterous partners and spent with only her husband.
17. The Lord knew full well that just as even though Gomer was brought back by force and her heart would not go back to Hosea right away, there was no guarantee that even though the Israelites were forced to spend time only with God that their hearts would return to God right away. That's just the way it is, and even if a person loses everything and all they got left was God alone a person would not necessarily then go back to God. Therefore, the Lord God expresses this period of time as "a long while." The captivity would be a long while. It would be a time of suffering for the Israelites, but it would also be a time of suffering for the Lord God too. During that time the Lord would have to be patient. And the Lord intended to wait patiently for a long time. Even if it is after a long period of time he would keep waiting for that day upon which they come back and seek the Lord. It goes like this in the next part:
"After that the Israelites will come back and they will seek the Lord their God and king David and at the end of days they will draw near with fear for the Lord and his grace," (3:5).
19. Well, we need to really think about getting and losing here. It's easy to understand losing something and being plundered, and suffering because of that, as the judgment and punishment of God. Perhaps everybody thinks that once. But, Hosea shows us a completely different way of looking at it. He saw the time period of the captivity when Israel lost its statehood as a life of grace in which God himself went out [with them], paid the sacrifice, redeemed them, and spent time with them patiently just as Hosea did.
20. We thank God when we get something and we accept this as a witness to God's love and grace. But then, when we lose something we spew out our anger and might even call God every bad name [we can come up with]. Thus, we then reveal that it was only Baal that we had been going after [the whole time]. Therefore, we had better listen to what Hosea is saying here. The time when they were set free from their hard times and they restored their prosperity was not a time of God's redemption. Hosea says that when they lost their prosperity and their statehood, it had already been a time of grace in which God was lovingly redeeming them.
21. So then, it might look like a person is losing something, but in truth he or she is gaining Him whom he or she should absolutely never lose. He is the Lord God our husband whom we should not lose. We come to realize the meaning of a life set apart by his love when we "draw near with fear to his grace" and to the One and only One whom we should truly not lose, and when we get our eyes opened to the One who paid the sacrifice, loved us and waits patiently for us .
*Singular or plural.