God is wanting to show his amazing, unfailing love toward Israel while at the same time expressing how hurtful it is to endure Israel’s unfaithfulness. God pictures his relationship with his people as a marriage. But God is describing that he is in a bad marriage because Israel is not faithful to him. So God calls a prophet named Hosea to marry a promiscuous woman and have children that are born from her promiscuity to be a picture to his people about what he is enduring. In Hosea 3 we come back to this picture. Hosea has three children, some of which are not his. Hosea is married to an unfaithful woman. Now this picture of God’s love will be fully brought to our eyes through Hosea’s life. Look at the first verse of Hosea 3.
Love Again (3:1)
We have not been informed about how things are going in Hosea’s life. We do not know what the home looked like and the difficulties that ensued. But verse 1 reveals that there has been pain. Gomer, Hosea’s wife, has left him. She is loved by another man and has continued her unfaithfulness against him. She is loved by another man and she is an adulteress. What would a human do in this situation? The marriage would be over. It would have to be over. She refuses to be faithful to him. Hosea would have every right to divorce her for her infidelity. The scriptures give him every right to put her away for her unfaithfulness. But God tells Hosea to go and love her again.
Why? Look at verse 1. Love her “even as the Lord loves the children of Israel though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” God will love his people even though they do not love him. His people do not love him and have left him. This love is simply unbelievable. God has every right and every prerogative to divorce his people because they left him. They do not love him. They do not want God. But God says he will love them again. To help us see even more how staggering this love is, notice the text tells us that the people love raisin cakes instead of the Lord. Raisin cakes were enough to pull the people away from the Lord. Raisin cakes were offered to Mesopotamian gods. The people apparently loved those raisin cakes. Think about the silliness of this exchange. The people love raisin cakes instead of loving God. It is unfathomable. What are the raisin cakes that we love more than the Lord? We love such trivial things instead of God. Think about the things that we love that absolutely interfere with loving God. Trade out the raisin cakes for television. Rather than loving God and learning about him in our private time, we love television. We trade God for money, possessions, and recreation. We trade the Lord for sex. We trade God for all kinds of trivial, temporary things in this life and we do not see the silliness of the exchange. Rather than loving God, we love raisin cakes. In spite of this, God loves us and desires to win our hearts back to him.
Think about what God told Hosea. Hosea is to love the woman who has been unfaithful to him like God loves the children of Israel. Love her like God loves you. This is the model for our marriages and mirrors what the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5. Husbands are to love their wives like Christ loves the church. Love is to be in our marriage like how God loves us. Even though we completely fail in our marriages, we are to continue to love each other in our marriages just as God loves us in all our failures.
Bought Back (3:2)
Now we are told something in verse 2 without any explanation. Hosea must buy back her wife for 15 shekels of silver and a homer and lethech of barley. The impression we are left with is that she has enslaved herself somehow. She had left Hosea for another lover and perhaps he had rejected her at some point or she left him. Somehow, whether through her sexual escapades or being rejected by her adulterous lover, she is now put up for sale. Think about how crazy it is that Hosea would have to buy back his own wife! Yet he does it. She already is married to him but he has to buy her back and does it. Hosea does this and it is a picture of what God does for us. We belonged to the Lord already. He created us and called us to himself. Yet he rejected him and went after all of our desires. There is not a person who has not done this. We have sold ourselves into the power of sin. We gave into our flesh and chased after the pursuits of this world. But God buys us back. This is the repeated message of the New Testament, showing us what Jesus did for us.
He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people for his own possession, eager to do good works. (Titus 2:14 CSB)
For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb. (1 Peter 1:18–19 CSB)
This is the power of Paul’s teaching in Romans 5.
For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6–8 CSB)
The Call (3:3)
Now that Gomer has been bought back and returned as Hosea’s wife, Hosea has an obvious, simple request. You must be faithful to me. I will be faithful to you and you must be faithful to me. Not a crazy request and not a difficult request. It is a request that we would expect. This is what God tells us. We were married to the Lord and we cheated on him with our worldly desires and sins. We enslaved ourselves and by God’s amazing love he set us free by paying a high price, the blood of his Son, to bring us back to him. Now God has a simple request: you must be faithful to him. You cannot belong to someone else. You cannot chase these other lovers that I redeemed you from. You must belong to me and be faithful to me. God says he will do the same for us. He will continue to be faithful to us. This is why, in the scriptures we read above, God is always calling for us to be holy and pure because he redeemed us. It is an obvious request of us. Listen to how Paul taught this idea to the Corinthians.
You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20 ESV)
God’s call is not simply, “Stop sinning.” God’s call is, “I love you when you ran away from me and sold yourself. But I came and brought you back. All I am asking is for you to now remain faithful to me.”
What This Looks Like (3:4-5)
The final verses of this chapter contain prophecy about what this return will look like. God’s people are pictured as being purged and cleansed from all their idols, gods, and desires. God’s people will be stripped of all their false loves and false security. God is going to deconstruct his people with a purpose, which is stated in verse 5. So that the people will return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king. We see this teaching from God repeatedly in the scriptures. God allows suffering, allows difficulties, removes prosperity, strips blessings, and deconstructs our lives so that we will return and seek the Lord. We need to think about this for a moment. Life not going according to our vision or plans is intended for us to see if we are depending on something besides the Lord and return to him. God is trying to show our flaws in faith and refine that faith to a saving faith (1 Peter 1:6-7). This is also God’s grace, mercy, and love. God would not love us if we continued with an insufficient faith and did not try to rattle our lives. It would be as foolish as a parent allowing bad behavior from their child. This is what the writer of Hebrews taught in chapter 12. God is teaching, training, and transforming us through his discipline. A good father trains the child so that the child is no longer disobedient or out of control. Without God doing this for us, we would be disobedient and out of control toward God. So God is using these life events to turn our hearts back to him.
Verse 5 speaks to a messianic hope. People are going to want the Lord and his Anointed to rule over them. We will come in fear to the Lord and we will come to his goodness when Christ came. Jesus is the descendant of David, and he is the one who changes our hearts to change our lives. This is what God says he will do and now we can see that this is what God has done through Jesus.
So we need to feel the weight of the picture God provides to us. We are in a marriage to God and we are responsible for making this a bad marriage. God is not the problem. We are the problem. We need to hear this. God is not the problem. We are the problem. We are unfaithful. We enslave ourselves. We wander from him. We love other people and other things than God. This means that we have betrayed God. We like to think this is not us but it is. We have wrecked ourselves. We have wrecked our lives. We have run so far from God. We have put ourselves in the arms of other lovers again and again. God has 100 million reasons to divorce us. Think about how many times you have loved something else more than God and have chosen sin instead of God. How many times have we done this? God has over 100 million reasons to divorce us. But he does not do it. God does not give up on you. This is the message of the cross. The cross shows that God does not give up on you. God does not buy us back out of revenge, judgment, or punishment. God buys us back out of love. God loved us when we rejected him. God goes and buys us with the blood of his Son through the cross to show us how much he loves us and to bring us back to him. He did this when we did not even want him. God has redeemed us. God paid the price to restore us. He reconciles this marriage relationship. God is only asking one thing from you: be faithful to him. Stop destroying yourself, giving yourself away to destructive desires and worldly pursuits, and love God because he is faithful to you. His love is to change our look at sin and our view of this world. Our pursuits and ways kill us and destroy us. God’s pursuits and God’s ways heal us, help us, and restore us. Return to the love of the Lord your God.