This chapter has the same theme as the previous one. Also in this chapter Israel is presented as a woman of harlotry. The difference with Hosea 1 is that this is not about Hosea’s marriage, but that Israel’s unfaithfulness is described in more detail here.
God calls Hosea to denounce His people as a lewd woman. She has been guilty of the worst unfaithfulness to God by seeking her advantage from the nations. She has forgotten that all blessing comes only from God. That is why God brings her into the loneliness of the wilderness. There He speaks to her heart. His grace works a return of the people that He will call ‘My people’ again. In the same way God wants to work in our lives when we forget Him.
1 A Remnant and its Characteristic
1 Say to your brothers, “Ammi,” and to your sisters, “Ruhamah.”
After the magnificent view unfolded in the previous verses, the prophet is instructed to say something to a more defined group. This is a word spoken to people whom God calls “your brothers” and “your sisters”. God sees these people in connection with Hosea. He regards them as his family. Not the whole people are addressed, but those members of them who share Hosea’s feelings towards the whole of Israel and therefore also the feelings of God.
Listening to God, to what He says in His Word, is the true characteristic in those days and is the true characteristic now of everyone He recognizes as a member of His ‘family’. In the same way the Lord Jesus speaks when He calls those who do the will of His Father His brothers and sisters (Mt 12:48-50).
This is what can be called ‘a remnant’ recognized by the heart of God. That remnant is an object of mercy, while the nation as a whole must be rejected by Him. That remnant, after having had to call His people Lo-ammi, not My people, for a while, He now calls again “Ammi”, My people. The same people He had to call Lo-ruhamah, who did not receive compassion. But now He calls it “Ruhamah” again, who has received compassion.
Even today, in the midst of a Christianity where there is no place for the Christ of the Scriptures and the Word of God is attacked from all sides, love for the Lord Jesus is the simple characteristic of someone who wants to be faithful. That love becomes visible in being obedient to the Word of God.
2 Call to Contend
2 “Contend with your mother, contend,
For she is not my wife, and I am not her husband;
And let her put away her harlotry from her face
And her adultery from between her breasts,
The call to contend with “your mother”, that is Israel – or: to enter into a lawsuit with her – is addressed to the God-fearing within that same Israel. It is a faithful remnant that takes God’s side against sin. The “contention” to which is called is an appropriate and humble testimony against evil, in the sense of being part of the same people being contended. The fact that this call sounds twice in succession indicates the necessity of the accusation. The time is more than ripe for it. A longer delay would give the appearance that God is indifferent to the sins of His people.
When God testifies against evil, so must the faithful believers. Hosea is such a faithful believer, as are those who are called “brothers” and “sisters” in the previous verse (verse 1). Like Hosea, they, too, are indignant about the sin of unfaithfulness to which the people are guilty. They feel the evil and speak and act with it according to God’s will and as His Spirit makes clear to them.
The call comes to the individual, faithful believer to testify that the people as a whole are on the way of sin. But it gives extra courage to give this testimony fearlessly when we know that, even in our testimony against evil, we are not alone, but that others share those feelings with us. By clearly distancing ourselves from evil and not participating in it, or even separating ourselves from it, this testimony gains its true power.
No one can be a true witness against prevailing evil if he remains connected to it. This call can be applied today to a local church that allows worldly influences and deviates from Scripture. Against this, we must make our voice heard and take action. Deviation from God’s thoughts must be denounced.
If, after repeated requests, no response is found, separation must take place. This can only happen when all attempts to come to repentance have failed, when it has turned out that one does not judge wickedness, but allows it to exist or remains consciously connected to it. The call is then: “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness” (2Tim 2:19b; cf. Rev 18:4-5).
God can no longer acknowledge Israel as His wife. Through her marital unfaithfulness, she has severed the marriage bond. Through her harlotry she has broken the covenant with Him. She does not seem to have any sense of shame. She is no longer ashamed, no longer knows what blushing is. Instead, the longing for lewdness reads on her face. Jeremiah speaks of having “a harlot’s forehead” (Jer 3:3). But it is not only on her face that it is read, but practice also proves her complete unfaithfulness to God. Just as harlots blatantly bare their breasts, so Israel offers herself, without shame, to seduce her lovers.
God, in His description of the unfaithfulness of His people, is by no means flattering. Without restraint He compares the attitude and behavior of His people with that of a cheeky harlot. He does this so that the Israelites will see the repugnance of their behavior and repent. You will be compared to a harlot after all!
We may speak disgracefully of Israel’s behavior, but then we do not understand that the same is said to us (2Cor 11:3; Jam 4:4). If that becomes apparent to us, what is our reaction? It is possible to react angrily or with indifference, but there may also be acknowledgment. In the hope of the latter reaction follows the exhortation, both to Israel and to us, to get rid of lewdness in attitude and behavior.
The last part of the verse points out that this adultery takes place in a hidden place, in secret. When hidden sins are confessed and disposed of, Christ can take that place. The bride in Song of Songs says of Him: “My beloved is to me a bundle of myrrh sleeping between my breasts” (Song 1:13). Anyone who calls the Lord Jesus ‘my Beloved’ will not allow anything or anyone to displace Him from that place.
3 Consequences of Unrepentance
3 Or I will strip her naked
And expose her as on the day when she was born.
I will also make her like a wilderness,
Make her like desert land
And slay her with thirst.
The word “or” indicates that repentance is still possible. But if the call made at the end of verse 2 is not answered, the consequences will be as described in verse 3. In Hosea 1 there is no such possibility. There the judgment is announced, without mentioning that repentance averts this judgment. However, in a judgment preaching it is not always necessary to point out that one can escape that judgment by repentance. Jonah, for example, only preaches judgment (Jona 3:4). If this judgment is acknowledged, remorse and repentance come (Jona 3:5). As a result, God does not execute the judgment (Jona 3:10).
The judgment that God will bring upon His people if they do not repent means that He will strip her naked as on the day of her birth. This means that He will take away all the privileges He has bestowed on His people. He will also bring her into a state of complete helplessness, a state that the prophet Ezekiel depicts when he describes Israel on the day of his birth (Eze 16:4-5). This is presented to Israel as a warning, so that it will come to repentance. Furthermore, God warns His people that He will also make her like a wilderness, a place where there is no water and people die of thirst. God will withhold the rain from the people in His judgment. No more blessing will be her part.
It is always touching to see how God speaks to His people. It is as if He still hesitates to execute His judgment. Through the service of Hosea, He offers her a last chance to escape. As Hosea sees that the people do not care about his message – a message on behalf of God – his statements become more vehement and penetrating.
4 No Compassion on the Children
4 “Also, I will have no compassion on her children,
Because they are children of harlotry.
By speaking of “your mother” (verse 2) the LORD has addressed the people as a whole. Now He speaks of “her children” with whom the individual Israelites are meant. He will show them no compassion, because they were born as a result of ‘the mother’s’ dealings with false gods. The idolatry reigns supreme in Israel. God is not thought of. The blessings obtained are attributed to the Baal (verse 8). Not only the nation as a whole is guilty, but also each Israelite individually. In every Israelite the fruit of the adultery of ‘the mother’ becomes visible. The saying “like mother, like daughter” (Eze 16:44) applies here.
One could argue that children cannot do anything about it if their mother plays the harlot. But that is not the point here. After all, not all follow the mother in her adulterous behavior. Those who are called “brothers” and “sisters” (verse 1), who are called to contend with their mother (verse 2), do not participate.
If God does not take care of children born out of harlotry, it is because they act according to their birth. These children have no repentance, no crying out to God, no begging for His compassion. They do exactly the same things as their mother. The fact that God does not take care of them is only due to themselves, to their own adulterous behavior in imitation of their mother.
5 The Harlotry of the Mother
5 “For their mother has played the harlot;
She who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
Who give [me] my bread and my water,
My wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’
With “mother” again the whole people of Israel is meant. By “them”, in the second line, are meant the children of verse 4. Just as Gomer has followed her lovers and received gifts from them, so Israel does with the idols of the surrounding nations. Israel attributes all the blessings with which the LORD has overloaded them to the favor of the false gods.
Undoubtedly these things have come into their possession as a result of trade agreements. But Israel links the thought to the fact that the surrounding nations possess these merchandise as a result of the benevolence of an idol. Therefore, in addition to possessing the material benefits, Israel desires to connect spiritually with those gods. After all, these gods bring them all their prosperity.
The unfaithful people pretend that these goods belong to her through the generosity of the world, from which she indeed wants to receive them. By her “lovers” especially Egypt and Assyria are meant, with whom she has made lewd commitments (Eze 16:26,28-29).
She made those commitments in order to obtain earthly benefits. But she is blind to the fact that she has received these earthly benefits from God as well (verse 8). They continue to seek their satisfaction exclusively in earthly pleasures. As a result, they are beyond the experience described by David: “You have put gladness in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine abound” (Psa 4:7). David’s joy does not lie in earthly prosperity and wealth. What everyone who is honest also deeply recognizes today is David’s portion. When the heart finds peace in God, it is perfectly happy and does not care about all earthly glory.
What Israel has done, Christianity does now: it seeks its advantage in the world. Without asking for God of Whom everything is, Christians enjoy all kinds of things in the same way as the people of the world do. They also often say that they have worked hard for it themselves, thus asserting their right to a certain standard of living. Only for the form, sometimes a ‘form prayer’ is said at meals. Many Christians want to benefit as much as possible from all kinds of advantages to make life on earth as pleasant as possible.
Today’s Christianity is completely alienated from what drives a man like Paul. When he talks about certain advantages, from which he could make a profit, to the satisfaction of his ego, he says that for Christ’s sake he has given up everything (Phil 3:7-8). That is why he can declare Christians who exceed themselves to be enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil 3:18-19). In what way would there be no idols today? Of how many Christians is the god not “[their] appetite”? They fill themselves with all sorts of worldly ‘delights’. This idol may therefore rejoice in an unprecedented popularity. Why is that? Because Christ is no longer everything to the heart.
We can also learn from Rebekah’s attitude when she is asked to go to Isaac. When Abraham’s servant has told all kinds of things about Isaac and also shown her precious things, and then suggests to her that she goes with him, she says without hesitation, “I will go” (Gen 24:58). She takes all the hardships of the wilderness journey to be with Isaac. Nothing from her parental home is able to keep her there. Although she has not seen Isaac, she has seen so much of his glory that she likes to go with the servant. She gives herself unconditionally to him, he is her first love. If our love for the Lord Jesus is just as great, we are not so full of all those earthly delicacies.
“Bread” and “water” are necessary necessities of life; “wool” and “flax” are used to make clothes; “oil” and “wine” symbolize joy and festivities. It is around these things that the life of the Israelites at the time of Hosea revolves, and it is around these things that the lives of countless Christians today revolve.
The recurring “my” that stands before each of these articles is reminiscent of the parable of the rich fool the Lord Jesus pronounces (Lk 12:13-21). The man is doing well. Things are going so well that he can no longer store everything in his storerooms. He thinks about the measures to be taken and comes to the conclusion that he will demolish the old barns and build bigger ones. He talks about “my crops”, “my barns”, “my grain and my goods”. We see how selfish this man is and how his whole thinking is focused on his possessions. The word “my” comes out of his mouth quite a few times! We also see this selfishness in Nabal who does not want to give David anything of his possessions (1Sam 25:11).
But the man in the parable has not yet finished his reflections. He has his ducks in a row and thinks he can now enjoy himself. We can say that the man has thought well and has arranged his affairs very well. But there is one thing he has not thought about and that is the word the Lord Jesus speaks before he tells the parable: “For not [even] when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Lk 12:15b).
Therefore, the parable does not end with a successful businessman enjoying life, but with the reality that God has the last word. God calls someone who lives only for money and good, food, drink and pleasure, a ‘fool’. Suddenly the earthly life can come to an end and then you will no longer have any use for all those things for which you have toiled so hard and to which you are so attached.
6 Thorns and a Wall
6 “Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns,
And I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths.
This verse indicates how God acts with His people to bring them back from their own path. He uses imagery twice: “hedge up her way with thorns” and “build a wall”. A road barred with thorns is a road on which an impenetrable barrier has been placed. You can only go up that road if you are prepared to suffer painful injuries. The path of sin is made unattractive, its painful side is shown.
Someone can be kept from a sinful road if it is painted in bright colors that will mean, for example, the ruin of his health. A military exercise ground or a minefield can be cordoned off by barbed wire because it is very dangerous to enter this terrain or field. Anyone who does not heed the warnings and still wants to risk it must bear the consequences. He can get a lot of clothes tears and also physical injuries, he even runs the risk of being killed. Only a fool does not care about thorns or barbed wire.
But God still has a means. He will close off access to the path taken by sin with a wall. He does this to bring the illegal users – His unfaithful people – from the path of sin back on the right path. God erects a wall, a wall that provides seclusion, separating His people from their lovers (cf. Job 19:8).
This happens when He scatters Israel. Then they no longer exist as a nation and as a nation they no longer have contact with foreign peoples and their gods. In this way she can no longer commit adultery with the idols. In Hosea 3 this is further elaborated, but here this judgment is described as a disciplinary measure that must lead to conversion (verse 7).
7 The Decision to Return
7 “She will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them;
And she will seek them, but will not find [them].
Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my first husband,
For it was better for me then than now!’
In this verse follows the elaboration of what God did in verse 6. If Israel appeals in vain to the nations from whom they have benefited so much, they will remember that they have not had that bad with God. They will return to Him. Unfortunately, the confession of sin is missing. There is no repentance. There is no disgust for their sin and the idols are not given up.
With the prodigal son in Luke 15 this is different. That boy also thinks it is better in the world than at home. But when he is in misery, he remembers how much better he had it at home. When he gets up and goes back home, he does so with a confession (Lk 15:13-20).
If only Israel had returned to God with such a confession. The following verse makes it clear that they have no awareness that God has given them everything they attribute to the idols.
This picture of Israel also applies to nominal Christians. One seeks the world and its benefits, its riches and prosperity, the pleasant existence, without asking for God. But it can happen that there is no longer any advantage to be gained in the world, for example by a natural disaster that takes away all the abundance of a country, or by a disease that puts an end to all plans. Then there is a tendency to return to that good old ‘religion’. In wartime the churches fill up and when there is personal need, people often start praying again. But if one starts asking for God again solely because of need, without remorse and repentance, this is just a hollow phrase. God will certainly not listen to it (Job 35:12-13; 35:9-10).
8 God Is Not Acknowledged as the Giver
8 “For she does not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the new wine and the oil,
And lavished on her silver and gold,
[Which] they used for Baal.
God is the source of all blessing. “The grain, the new wine and the oil” are more often mentioned together (Deu 7:13; 11:14; 12:17; 14:23; 28:51). They are the three main blessings of the land. If one starts to consider the gifts that God gives in nature or spiritually apart from Him as the Giver, the unfaithfulness is born. Israel has lost the awareness that it owes everything it possesses to God.
We see that this has brought sin into the world. In Paradise, God says to man that he may eat freely from all the trees of the garden. But what comes first with Eve? From her answer to the serpent it appears that with her the fruit is in the foreground and that she is not allowed to eat it freely. Her attention is focused on the gift and not on the Giver. And then things go wrong. In a certain sense God blesses all people (Mt 5:45b; Acts 14:17). But just like Israel and just like Eve, modern man does not realize that God is the source of the food and joy he is allowed to enjoy every day.
Not only does Israel not thank God for it, but they also use the gifts of God in their audacity to give them to Baal. This is done, for example, by turning the gold into a statue for the Baal, but also by sacrificing all kinds of gifts to that self-made statue. It is possible that the name ‘Baal’ stands for all the idols here, of which Baal is the most popular.
We may ask ourselves: For what purpose do I use what I have received from God? Do I serve myself with it? Or do I serve others with it, but only for the benefit that it gives me again? Or do I sometimes serve the gods of our time with it, by being fully absorbed in my career, by paying too much attention and money to how I look or by being able to argue as powerfully as possible? There are more examples where a person abuses what he has received from God, to his own credit.
9 God Takes Away the Blessing
9 “Therefore, I will take back My grain at harvest time
And My new wine in its season.
I will also take away My wool and My flax
[Given] to cover her nakedness.
Because of the lack of awareness that God is the source of their blessing (verse 8), God is going to take the blessing away again. Because of their sinful deeds, God will take away their food and clothing so that there is a lack of the most basic necessities of life (1Tim 6:8). For example, God might withhold the rain from the land. More often the people have been punished with drought for their unfaithfulness and idolatry (1Kgs 17:1-7). He can also take away the blessing from enemies who rob the harvest (Jdg 6:1-6).
God acts this way because the people are unfaithful to Him. That is why this verse, as well as verse 6, begins with “therefore”, because God cannot allow His people to appropriate what is His. God speaks here of “My grain”, “My new wine”, “My wool” and “My flax”, to indicate that it comes from Him and remains of Him. What He gives, He does not lose. He remains its Owner and has the right to take it back.
From a spiritual point of view this is also the case. The church has lost a lot of blessing because of her unfaithfulness. Enemies have got the upper hand in the church. People who criticize the Bible are given the space to spread their pernicious teachings on the pulpit. Christians are more open to influences from the world than to the Word of God. If meeting- and organizing techniques prove to work in the world, they are also used to improve discussions in and the functioning of the church of God.
In this way the enemy gains control over the ins and outs of the church. The Word of God is no longer the point of reference, but the word of people. The church becomes an association that is governed in accordance with what is acceptable in worldly associations. God then takes away what He has given in blessing. Believers lose the sense of their connection to a glorified Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3).
This can also be applied to natural life and material things. Sometimes money has to be spent on things that are the result of unfaithfulness or violation of prescribed rules. This is the case with a fine for driving too fast. The money to be paid for this is lost. If you cause a collision, it often costs even more money. It is also possible to treat your health irresponsibly, causing your body to lose certain functions. By bad behavior money and good and health can be taken away from you, you have lost it.
But now the reaction. Do I finish up with: ‘Oh, that can happen to anyone, so to me as well’? That is true, but doesn’t the Christian look any further? God speaks through it. Am I open to learning what God wants to teach me through it? You may certainly expect the latter from a Christian.
10 God’s People Disgraced
10 “And then I will uncover her lewdness
In the sight of her lovers,
And no one will rescue her out of My hand.
The word translated here with “lewdness” means ’withered state’. That is the end result, when God has taken all her abundance away from her. Israel’s “lovers” will therefore despise her and want nothing more to do with her. It indicates Israel’s deep humiliation.
This is how it goes with everyone who leaves God to serve the world. God will disgrace such a person before the eyes of the world. The world seems like a lover, but as soon as there is nothing more to be gained, you are pushed aside like dirt. Such a thing happens to an Egyptian young man. Because he has become ill, his lord leaves him behind as a prey for anyone who sees him. Fortunately, this young man falls into the hands of David (1Sam 30:11-20).
When God pronounces His judgment, it is impossible to escape. No one can stop Him then. Maybe there are people who feel sorry for your situation, but if there is no real return to God, it is not possible to really get out of that ‘withered state’.
11 God Puts the People’s Feast to an End
11 “I will also put an end to all her gaiety,
Her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths
And all her festal assemblies.
God will put to an end everything that pleases His people because it is a pleasure without Him. The feasts have degenerated into religious forms, with no place for God there. The center for religious ceremonies is Jerusalem. The kingdom of the ten tribes will have held its feasts in Bethel and Dan with the golden calves (1Kgs 12:25-33), or in other consecrated places.
Of the feasts described in Leviticus 23, here are mentioned the monthly Feast of trumpets, which are the “new moons”, the weekly “Sabbaths” and “all her feasts”, which are the annual feasts. The annual celebrations include the Passover, Pentecost and the Feast of Booth.
But what in Leviticus 23 is called “the LORD’s appointed times” or “the feast days of the LORD” (Lev 23:2), is called here “her feasts, her new moons and her sabbaths”, “all her festal assemblies”. We find the same in the Gospel according to John. There the “Passover to the LORD” (Lev 23:5) is called “the Passover of the Jews” (Jn 2:13; 6:4; cf. Jn 5:1; 7:2). They do not hold these feasts in honor of God, but for the feast itself. Only the form is maintained.
The same is true of Christianity. The outer forms of religiosity still exist. However, they are empty shells where God is not honored, but where man is central and gorges himself. In the New Testament two things are said to be “of the Lord”. That is “Supper of the Lord” (1Cor 11:20) and “the day of the Lord” (Rev 1:10). The expression “of the Lord” means ’belonging to the Lord’ and appears as such only in these two places.
The Supper of the Lord has become a supper of people. Whether one says that the supper serves to strengthen one’s faith, as in Protestantism, or whether one says that by eating it one eats Christ and therefore has eternal life, as in roman catholicism, in both cases it is not understood what this meal means. The Supper is a meal in remembrance of Him, Who surrendered Himself to God and died for the church (1Cor 11:23-26).
In the same way, the day of the Lord, Sunday, has become a day that we fill with doing things we like to do ourselves. Maybe we still visit a church or meeting, but it should not take too long, because there should also be enough time left for ourselves. We don’t think anymore that it is a day that He has set aside especially for Himself.
By the way, the “day of the Lord” is not a disguised form of the Sabbath, for which all kinds of rules have been devised of what you are allowed to do and especially what you are not allowed to do. The goal of the Lord’s day is that on that day every Christian will dedicate himself especially to the Lord. Of course, it also applies to other days that a Christian is dedicated to the Lord. He cannot live without Him for a moment. But on that special day, the everyday things we always have to do, as much as possible, go aside to honor Him.
Honoring that will happen in the first place by coming together with God’s children. We can also honor Him by giving a little extra attention to some of those who appreciate a visit. Furthermore, anyone who lets himself be led by the Lord, will certainly find to give substance to that day that corresponds to the fact that it is “the day of the Lord”.
12 Destruction of Vine and Fig Tree
12 “I will destroy her vines and fig trees,
Of which she said, ‘These are my wages
Which my lovers have given me.’
And I will make them a forest,
And the beasts of the field will devour them.
From the feasts in the previous verse, the prophet passes to the fruits of the land. Feasts and fruits belong together because the annual feasts are related to agriculture. The vine and the fig tree represent the delicious fruits of the land, which God intended as a blessing for every Israelite. In the time of Solomon, when he reigns over a large area and has peace on all sides, Judah and Israel live peacefully, “every man under his vine and his fig tree” (1Kgs 4:24-25).
But what is a gift from God is seen by Israel as something they have received from their lovers, Egypt and Assyria. When they see their vine and fig tree, they are no longer reminded of the goodness of God, but of their trading partners. Maybe they boast of their smartness in the negotiations.
God no longer appears in their thoughts. What an insult to Him! But if they think they have received the blessings God has given them from their “lovers”, then they no longer need to count on God’s protection. He will take away any protection from them and make them a booty for their enemies. He who despises God’s blessings must also lack God’s protection.
13 Punishment for the Days of the Baals
13 “I will punish her for the days of the Baals
When she used to offer sacrifices to them
And adorn herself with her earrings and jewelry,
And follow her lovers, so that she forgot Me,” declares the LORD.
The reason for the judgment lies in the offering of sacrifices to the Baals. This refers to the days of Ahab by whom the Baal service was elevated to the status of “state religion”, while God’s service was set aside (1Kgs 16:31-33). Although Jehu eradicated the Baal service (2Kgs 10:18-28), the heart of the people remained attached to the Baal. The idolatry has been revived and the serving of Baal has begun again (2Kgs 11:18).
The plural “Baals” indicates that there are several manifestations of idolatry. Regionally different gods are venerated under the name Baal, just as there are today different Madonna’s of the one Mary worship from place to place. There are also Baals with different functions. The tribute to the Baals goes hand in hand with extensive ceremonies. People dress like harlots to seduce their lovers.
Then comes the striking “she forgot Me”. Here we hear the touching language of God’s heart because of the rejection of His love. Forgetting or ignoring Him is perhaps even worse than opposing Him. It shows contempt. It is not only not taking Him into account, but pretending He is not there. There is nothing more that can hurt a person than to pretend that he does not exist. How shocking for a child can be the discovery that his parents have forgotten him. Then you are not really important, then other things or people are apparently more important. Someone can disappear from our thoughts because we no longer find him or her interesting.
This can also happen to God. There are people who say they have a weak memory and think they can apologize for not serving God. But if you listen to them, you notice how they can remember other things very well. Forgetting God is a guilty act, and it does him an enormous amount of injustice. It certainly matters to Him how His people treat Him. If His love is not answered, it causes Him great sorrow.
14 God Is Going to Allure His People
14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Bring her into the wilderness
And speak kindly to her.
With this verse a description begins of what God will do to His people in the future. That description continues to the end of the chapter. After the judgments now follow the promises of salvation. The judgment that God must announce and also execute is not His last word to His people. The “therefore” with which the verse begins introduces the blessing, just as the “therefore” of verses 6,9 introduces the judgment.
The place God chooses to begin blessing is the wilderness. There the people, His wife, must learn that the false gods could not make her rich. In the solitude of the wilderness, alone with the LORD, she will learn where her sin has taken her. There she will feel the lack of the blessings God had given her in His land. This is God’s way with His people to do her well at last.
This bringing her into the wilderness is what God does when He lets His people be deported by the Assyrians and scattered in “the wilderness of the nations” (Eze 20:35-36). The wilderness is the place where the “youth memories” are reminisced. God can remind them there of the days of old, when Israel in her first love followed Him (Jer 2:2). The word “wilderness” here in Hosea and the quotation of “Egypt” in the following verse point to a historical similarity with the time of Israel’s departure from Egypt. Just as God then commanded the people to leave Egypt, go into the wilderness, and begin the journey to the promised land, so will He do in the future.
Just as in that time, the time of her first love, the people will be brought back into the “wilderness”. There God will test it, judge it and cleanse it, so that it will find the way of blessing and will regain possession of the land. Many will be judged. Only a remnant will effectively come there. This was also the case with the exodus from Egypt on the way to the promised land. The bodies of many have fallen in the wilderness.
It is remarkable how this judgment of scattering is presented here, namely as a matter of divine love. God says He “will allure” her there and “speak kindly to her”, or literally “speak to her heart”. He “allures” her. He does not drag her into the wilderness. The word for “allure” contains the thought of “persuading by means of attractive benefits”.
Behind the coercion of scattering, which is necessary because of her unfaithfulness, lies God’s love. God wants His people to be only for Him again. “To speak kindly” means to speak to someone in a friendly, encouraging, comforting way. The same expression is used in Isaiah 40 and Ruth 2, where it is also meant to put the other person at ease (Isa 40:2; Rth 2:13).
Just as for Israel the wilderness is a picture of scattering among the nations, for us the wilderness is a picture of the place where God tests and forms us. In our personal life, after deviating from the path with the Lord, restoration often begins because we end up in trial.
We discover that life without God does not give the satisfaction we have expected from it. We have disappointing experiences. Life starts to look like a wilderness. There is nothing ‘edible’ to be found, nothing that can really give a person satisfaction. But then we also discover that God has ‘allured’ us into that trial and wants to ‘speak kindly’ in it. This is how God does it, also with us, because He loves His own.
15 A Door of Hope
15 “Then I will give her her vineyards from there,
And the valley of Achor as a door of hope.
And she will sing there as in the days of her youth,
As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.
The return from the wilderness in the land is depicted with beautiful words by Solomon in the book of Song of Songs: “Who is this coming up from the wilderness Leaning on her beloved?” (Song 8:5). Here we see Israel, no longer leaning on her own strength, but on her Beloved. He spoke to her heart and promised her blessings. That is why she is coming out of the wilderness.
The comfort that the LORD has for His people is not only expressed in words. In His grace He will also give her access to His blessings. They are blessings which He has first given her and then taken away from her. Now that she has learned that all blessings come only from God, she may accept them again from God’s hand. In His grace He even calls the vineyards “her vineyards”. Here the vineyards represent the blessings of the land of Canaan.
“The valley of Achor” is a reminder of God’s judgment on sin (Jos 7:1,24-26). When Israel has executed this judgment on the sin that happened among them by God’s command, the door that gives access to the blessing can be opened again. Thus, a “sorrow” – that is what Achor means – becomes a door of hope (cf. Isa 65:10).
It is also true for us personally. The valley where we confess and condemn our sin becomes a place of hope. A valley speaks of humiliation. Humiliation, judging our sins, is the starting point of re-experiencing fellowship with God. In Golgotha we see this place of judgment at its deepest level, but where the door of hope is also opened wide.
If Israel is allowed to possess the blessings of the land again in the future, she will “sing”, as she did at the Red Sea after her redemption from the bondage of Egypt (Exo 15:1,21a). This is the song “in the days of her youth”.
With the blessings she will enjoy again in the future, she will experience the joy of her first rescue and redemption again. Grace gives a new beginning to her history, which is accompanied by unshakeable blessings. The freshness of this renewed youth, which will dawn for the whole people, will then no more be lost.
16 Ishi (My Husband)
16 “It will come about in that day,” declares the LORD,
“That you will call Me Ishi
And will no longer call Me Baali.
In the future, when God has again won His people over to Himself in grace, He will be like a Husband for them. He no longer will be ‘my Master’ (Baali) for them and will no longer be addressed as such. It is possible that Israel has come to address the LORD as Baal. If the people still hold on to a connection with God, but the love for Him is no longer present, He is seen as one of the many gods to whom one submits. As far as Israel is concerned, this situation will come to an end in the future. Then Israel will be in the true love relationship with Him again (Isa 54:5).
Also within Christianity there is the idea that God is an uncompromising Ruler, Whose iron will no one can escape. God wants to put an end to this situation, which makes the life of many Christians an extremely somber affair. These Christians live, so to speak, in the Achor valley, but without knowing the door of hope that this valley also holds. They always see God as a God who angered about sin, their sin. But it seems as if they are blind to the door that God is opening at that very moment.
God wants to make them happy, thankful Christians who are allowed to know Him and address Him as Father, instead of ‘a God who constantly angers’. Anyone who only knows God as an angry Ruler has a one-sided and therefore false perception of Him. God is thereby put on a par with the idols who also act entirely arbitrarily, without any affection for their worshippers. Idols are always demanding gods. Whoever presents the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ as a merely demanding God, makes a caricature of Him and disregards the giving and forgiving God. In Jesus Christ, God has given everything to make it possible that a human being becomes His child and He Himself to be his Father. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2Cor 9:15).
17 No More Other Names
17 “For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth,
So that they will be mentioned by their names no more.
Because of her conversion it will be over with her serving the idols. The names of the idols will no longer be mentioned (cf. Psa 16:4). It will be characteristic for the time in which Israel lives again in faithfulness to his God, that other gods will no longer be remembered (Zec 13:2a). The restored people living in the land again will then have written the law in their hearts and act accordingly. They will no longer have any difficulty with the word that was said to them at the Sinai which was subsequently so often broken by them (Exo 23:13).
For us Christians, there is a similar warning in God’s Word: “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and [there must be no] filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Eph 5:3). Who dares to claim that he has never been guilty of one or more of the expressions mentioned? Ambiguous remarks should not come from the mouth of a Christian. Sexual talk does not suit children of God. All sorts of indecent allusions to someone of the other sex are out of the evil one and not out of God. Statements reminiscent of greed are an indication that we are not satisfied with what we have.
Against all those expressions of the flesh, expressions that are characteristic of the world, there is a single other word: “Thanksgiving.” He who thanks is in connection with God as the Giver, the Source of all good gifts and every pure word. God wants us to be in connection with Him alone and to live from that relationship. Then there is no more room for any form of idolatry.
18 Peace on Earth
18 “In that day I will also make a covenant for them
With the beasts of the field,
The birds of the sky
And the creeping things of the ground.
And I will abolish the bow, the sword and war from the land,
And will make them lie down in safety.
In the future realm of peace, the animal world will no longer be characterized by the fear of man that has been there since the fall into sin (Gen 9:2). The peace that Israel will then possess as a people will have its radiance over the entire earth, including the animal realm. Isaiah speaks exuberantly in his prophecy about that time and the then prevailing peace (Isa 11:6-9). What Hosea says here will literally be fulfilled.
There is also an application to be made. In the different animals we can see the instruments of God’s judgments, i.e. the different enemies through whom God chastened His people. When the hostile nations have accomplished their task entrusted to them by God, a covenant will be made with them as well. Thus, they too will share in the blessing that will be Israel’s part (Isa 19:22-25). The war, through the centuries the scourge of the earth and here represented by “the bow, the sword and war” will no longer be there. The LORD will make these things vanish from the earth and war will no longer be taught (Isa 2:4; Mic 4:3). He will “will make them lie down in safety” which means that His people will live in peace.
19 Israel Betrothed to God
19 “I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice,
In lovingkindness and in compassion,
God speaks here directly to Israel. A new beginning is made, as if Israel has never been unfaithful. It is a new covenant, which replaces the old one, which has been broken by Israel. The new covenant that God then makes with His people is “forever” and will never be broken again. Israel will then no longer wander away from God because God’s law is written in their hearts.
The basis of this relationship is multiple. First and foremost is “in righteousness and in justice”. Herein is expressed the perfect legal basis for this marriage. It is not a relationship in which sin has been condoned. All the unfaithfulness of the people has been judged righteously by God, while a remnant has been spared because of the work of His Son. To this remnant, that confesses Jesus as the Christ, God will fulfill all His promises. Because God’s righteousness has been fully fulfilled through Christ, Christ is also entitled to the fulfillment of His promises. He stands in His right when He takes the people back to be His bride.
In addition to righteousness and justice, “lovingkindness and … compassion” underlie the restoration of the relationship between the LORD and His bride. In this way it is expressed that God cares for His bride with His whole heart. This points to God’s mind for His people and His compassion with the wretched condition in which it has been. What characterizes the relationship between the Messiah and His earthly people is also found in the way the Messiah rules in the realm of peace: “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Lovingkindness and truth go before You” (Psa 89:14).
It is difficult for some to understand that the Lord Jesus has two brides, an earthly bride, Israel, and a heavenly bride, the church, “the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev 21:9). But we must keep in mind that it is all about metaphors. It is a representation of the relationship between the Lord Jesus and Israel and a representation of the relationship between the Lord Jesus and the church. With both Israel on earth and the church in heaven, the Lord Jesus maintains a close relationship of love and fellowship. That relationship and that bond, which He has both with Israel and with the church, cannot be better represented than by the picture of marriage.
20 And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.
Then you will know the LORD.
The fifth characteristic, after the four of the previous verse on which the new relationship between God and His people is based, is “faithfulness”. This characteristic of faithfulness will certainly also apply to the people in their relationship with God. They will no longer be unfaithful to Him. For God this is always so: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2Tim 2:13).
That He is faithful is also evidenced by the fact that He is the guarantor of all His promises to Israel. He will fulfill them. They will not wander away from the LORD again, because they will really know Him. That is the result of the new heart they will have received, in which God has written His laws (Heb 8:8-12; Jer 31:31-34). It is this knowledge of the LORD that is characteristic of the realm of peace (Isa 11:9). This knowledge is not yet present (Hos 2:8; 4:1,6).
21 - 22 The LORD Responds
21 “It will come about in that day that I will respond,” declares the LORD.
“I will respond to the heavens, and they will respond to the earth,
22 And the earth will respond to the grain, to the new wine and to the oil,
And they will respond to Jezreel.
The heart of the people has been brought back to God. The broken relationship between God and His people has been restored. After the restoration of the inner bond, nothing stands in the way of God’s blessing anymore. But that stream of blessing only comes after the people have asked for it. God wants to make Himself known as a God Who responds. That comes first. Everything else is just its effect. While Israel first saw the blessings of the land as its own possessions, they now acknowledge through their prayer that they are blessings that must come from God, given by grace.
They no longer count on the favor of the idols for their needs. Israel has attributed the blessing to the Baals. Therefore, God has taken this blessing away from them so that they might learn that He is the Giver (verses 7-8). Now there is no place for idols anymore. In the restored relationship with their God, they now make Him their needs known in prayer. He will answer them, and how! There will be an uninterrupted stream of blessing between the LORD and His earthly people.
Heaven and earth have been separated since man’s fall into sin. Since that time satan has the power on earth (Lk 4:5-6) and appears before God in heaven as the accuser of the believers (Rev 12:10). But in the time of blessing that will then come for Israel, the power of satan will be broken. On earth he can do no more evil during that time (Rev 20:2-3). And heaven, after he is removed from it, will be cleansed of his presence (Rev 12:10).
Then there will be a beautiful harmony between heaven and earth. There will also be a beautiful harmony between sowing and harvesting. The chain of blessing finds its origin in God. The first thing that is said is: “I will respond.” That is what God says and then the blessing begins to flow. Heaven will ask God to give rain to the earth, that is blessing, and God will respond. But the question of heaven comes from the earth. The earth is seen as a person asking for rain from heaven. Heaven will respond and give the blessing.
But also the question of the earth does not stand alone. In turn, the earth is asked for fertility by the grain, the new wine and the oil. That is why the earth asks for rain from heaven. But also the demand of the grain, the new wine and the oil does not stand alone. Jezreel has asked for the fruit of the land. So Jezreel asks first. Jezreel is Israel as it will have been sown in the land by God at that time – see also the explanation at Hosea 1:11. Israel is the object of God’s blessing. Thus, heaven and earth and the fruit of the earth – in the realm of peace – will meet the needs of the people of God.
It is wonderful to see how the prayers are attuned to each other here. All prayers have the same goal, every link in this chain of prayer contributes to this. It is about blessing for God’s people. Heaven is answered by God who will give rain. Because of this, Jezreel will be able to enjoy the blessing of the land as coming out of God’s hand and as a response to prayer.
The content of these prayers has something to say to us. God also wants to bless His present people, the church. Do we pray for that? It is about enjoying what God has already given us. God “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly [places] in Christ” (Eph 1:3). But Paul prays for the Ephesians that God gives them that they will also enjoy it (Eph 1:16b-19; cf. Col 1:9-10; 4:2-3). If we were to focus more in our prayers on the content of what Paul is praying, would not God’s true blessing in Christ be enjoyed by us?
Regarding the restoration of Israel in their relationship to the LORD, there is even more result to report. There will not only be a blessing for Israel, but the whole earth will share in that blessing. The whole creation will then be set free from the curse that was placed upon it by the fall into sin. The setting free of creation will be linked to “the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom 8:19-21).
When the Lord Jesus returns and that glorious time for Israel and the whole earth will come, He will not come alone. All those who have become sons of God through faith in the Son of God will accompany Him (Rev 19:14). Together with all the believers of the Old Testament and also with all those who are killed in the great tribulation after the church has been raptured, they will “reign with Christ for a thousand years” (Rev 20:4-6).
23 You Are My People
23 “I will sow her for Myself in the land.
I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion,
And I will say to those who were not My people,
‘You are My people!’
And they will say, ‘[You are] my God!’”
God has come to His purpose. He has returned His people to His heart and to His land. The people sown by and for Him will enjoy full blessing in fellowship with Him. In that time, the time of the kingdom of peace, the situation which Hosea had to express in his days in the names of his children (Hos 1:4,6,9), will be totally reversed. The ‘God scatters’, the one meaning of ‘Jezreel’, in which His judgment is expressed, is changed into ‘God sows’, the other meaning of ‘Jezreel’. God’s blessing is expressed. The fact that God speaks here of sowing, in addition to the blessing for the seed, also makes us think of multiplying, increasing in number. The people will enjoy the blessing, but will also become very numerous and be spread abroad (Isa 54:3).
Paul quotes this verse in his letter to the Romans (Rom 9:25). In Romans 9 he also quotes Hosea 1:10, as we have seen (Hos 1:10; Rom 9:26). That quote serves to show that God’s grace cannot be limited to the Jew. Quoting verse 23 of Hosea 2 serves another purpose. This verse makes it clear that although grace is shown to Jew and Gentile without distinction, a separate blessing remains for the Jew. That blessing is: restoration in the land.
Peter also refers to this verse in his first letter. He highlights yet another aspect. From his letter it appears that he writes to converted Jews who are “scattered” (1Pet 1:1). He writes to them: “For you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1Pet 2:10). With this Peter refers to verse 23 here. With this he wants to make it clear that the believing Jews to whom he writes are already in the relationship with God that the whole people will only have in the future.
As Jews by nature, the judgment that God revealed in Hosea rests upon them. As converted Jews, they have already been accepted as God’s people and have already received His mercy. It is also true that through their faith in the Lord Jesus they have joined the church, but that fact is not mentioned here by Peter. It is for him to show his Jewish brethren what they have received from God through faith in the Messiah.
As we have already seen with the name ‘Jezreel’, here also the other names mentioned in Hosea 1, “Lo-ruhamah” and “Lo-ammi”, are changed for the better by God’s grace. In Hosea 1 they mean judgment. Here they get a positive meaning, reminiscent of mercy and blessing. God takes care of Lo-ruhamah, which means ‘no compassion’. To Lo-ammi, which means ‘not My people’, He says: “You are My people.”
With so much goodness, the people can only cry out: “My God.” In doing so, they express all the feelings of gratitude, admiration and praise that fill their hearts. This is reminiscent of what we read of Thomas. Thomas is a picture of the remnant, which only comes to faith when it sees the risen Lord. But when Thomas sees Him, he says, filled with reverence and awe: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).