The Redeeming Love of God

Original Date: 
Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hosea 3 Divine Romance: God’s Redeeming Love

An Unhappy Home
I invite you to turn in your Bibles, or scroll on your device, to Hosea chapter 3. Our scripture passage this morning is Hosea 3. We’ll be putting it up on the screen in a little bit as well.

We’ve been in the book of Hosea for the past month and a half. We’ve been looking at God’s relentless love for us as He expressed it through this Old Testament prophet. And I want to remind you of the story that lies behind this little book. I talked about it the first couple of weeks, but we’ve gotten away from it as we’ve gotten deeper into the book. Now, today, I want to come back and tell you how the story ends. It’s the story of Hosea and his wife Gomer.

Hosea, you may recall, was told by God to marry an adulterous wife. It’s a crazy and outlandish request. At the very beginning of the book, the second verse, God says “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness.” It’s God’s idea that Hosea marry a hooker.

So he goes out and marries Gomer, daughter of Diblaim. As far as we can tell, she was already a promiscuous woman before she even married him. Perhaps she was even working as a prostitute.

So, imagine that: Hosea, a prophet of God, the local preacher, well-known around town for his position as a spiritual leader; goes out and makes arrangements to marry a woman of extremely questionable character. Imagine the whispers and the snickers, imagine the gossip and the disbelief. Hosea, the man of God, married to a woman of the night. “Doesn’t he know about her past? Is he so blinded by love that he can’t see what she is?”

And it gets worse. Whatever she was before she married him, she has a hard time staying faithful afterward. We know she has three children while she’s married to Hosea. And the Bible calls them “children of unfaithfulness.” It’s clear that Hosea does not know whether or not they are his.

The first child is named Jezreel, after the site of an ancient massacre. It means “God scatters in judgment.” In other words, judgment is coming. The second child, a girl, is named Lo-Ruhamah, which means “not loved.” And the third, a son, is almost certainly not his. He gives him the name “Lo-Ammi”, “not my people.” Not mine.

Again, imagine the situation. Three children means they were married for at least four years, maybe five. And the whole time, Hosea is uncertain of whether Gomer will come home or not. She sneaks in during the middle of the night, smelling of booze and with her clothes in disarray. Some nights she doesn’t bother to come home at all.

What must that have been like for Hosea? Imagine all the restless nights, staring at the door, wondering if she would walk through it. Secretly hoping that she would and that she wouldn’t all at the same time. Did he argue out loud with himself about his love for her? Did he harbor fantasies of going out and punching some of those other men in the nose? Did he just feel like he was losing his mind?

The nights were excruciating and the days were exhausting. I imagine some of the fights they had must have been terrible.

And all the while the rumors keep circulating, the whispers continue. “I saw Hosea’s wife down on the street corner, hanging all over some guy.” “I hear Hosea’s wife was gone for three whole weeks. Why does he keep taking her back?” “Did you see Gomer’s new baby? He doesn’t look anything like Hosea!”

And through it all, Hosea keeps preaching God’s word. That’s what we get in chapters 4-14.

His family-life becomes a living parable for the message God wants him to proclaim; his children’s names are like a prophetic press-release to the people of Israel. Because God sees His relationship to His people mirrored in Hosea’s relationship to Gomer. God considers Himself married to His people—in covenant with them—and yet they have become adulterous by worshipping idols. They have consorted with the Baals. Played the harlot with other nations.

And like any good husband, God is jealous for the love of His wife. He is angry about their unfaithfulness. They mumble words of repentance, and yet there is no evidence of changed hearts. They keep going back, again and again, to their sinful and self-destructive habits. So God is ready to divorce them. He’s ready to cut them loose in judgment.

Except, He can’t bring Himself to do it. His compassion is too great. His love for them is not based on who they are or what they’ve done, but it springs from His inexhaustible heart. God still has plans for His people. Gracious and renewing plans.

The big idea of the message this morning is that God’s love is willing to pull us out of the depths of our sin and make us new again. And we’ll see that when God calls Hosea to do something seemingly crazy again. He calls Hosea to go and redeem His wife.

It is another astonishing picture of God’s love for His people.

Go and Love Your Wife Again
Here’s how Hosea 3 starts:

1The LORD said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress.’

We don’t get a lot of details on Gomer and Hosea’s life, but it is apparent that at some point she flat out left him. Probably abandoning the kids to him, she took off and never came back.

It says here that she is “loved by another.” But I don’t think that means she was shacked up with a boyfriend. We’re going to read in a bit that Hosea had to buy her. So that means she was in the possession of someone else.

We’d say she had a pimp. She was enslaved. Maybe forced to stand on a street corner. Maybe being kept in a brothel. It’s even possible that she was in the clutches of one of the pagan shrines.

You see, part of the idolatry of the time was cultic prostitution. (cf. Hosea 4:14) Part of the perverse idol worship was the notion that the fertility of the ground was influenced by the sex acts of the so-called priests and priestesses. That might be another explanation for the popularity of idol worship. An Israelite farmer would go to the shrine and hire a prostitute and then explain to his wife that it was all a part of his religion.

At any rate, Gomer is out of the house.

It was probably a relief to Hosea. All the unknowing was finally over. She had made her choice, she left him for a life of adultery. As hard as it would be to raise the kids on his own, at least the drama was over.

Except God wasn’t ready for it to be over. He commanded Hosea to go and love his wife again. Why? Because it is another prophetic picture for Israel. The rest of verse 1:

Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.

Hosea may have fallen out of love with Gomer, but the LORD has not fallen out of love with Israel. His love is constant, faithful, and persistent. His love is relentless.

And here’s the first point: God’s redeeming love is exceedingly gracious.

Hosea was to go get Gomer back to demonstrate what God’s love is like for His people.

Did Gomer deserve this?

Absolutely not. Her adultery was still in progress. She was living the life of a whore. She may have been enslaved and under the control of some pimp, but she got there by her own choices. She had a husband who loved her and provided for her and gave her chance after chance, but she abandoned him for the party life.

And by the way, there’s a pretty good lesson about sin here. Did Gomer set out to become a slave? You would certainly think not. Probably what she was looking for was a little fun. A way to get away from the restrictive rules and responsibilities of marriage. She thought she was chasing after a little freedom.

But what she thought was freedom was actually a trap. That’s the way it works with so many sins: they entice us with the idea that we are operating by our own rules, and then they get a hold of us and they don’t let go. Gomer thought she was really living, but then she found herself trapped in a lifestyle of death and destruction that she couldn’t escape.

So Gomer didn’t deserve Hosea’s love. She got herself into this predicament on her own. But it is going to take Hosea to get her out.

And that’s how it is with God’s love. We find ourselves in predicaments of our own making, and only God can get us out.

Look at the second half of the verse again:

Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.

The Israelites don’t deserve God’s love any more than Gomer deserves Hosea’s.

Notice, the word “love” appears 5 times in this verse. Hosea is to go and show love to his wife. She is loved by another (which is probably an ironic use of the word “love”). Hosea is to love Gomer as God loves the Israelites. And what do the Israelites love? Raisin cakes.

Isn’t that pathetic?

The raisin cakes were a sweet little treat that were a part of the Canaanite worship of the Baals. Go to the pagan shrine, burn some incense in front of a statue, maybe hire out one of the shrine prostitutes, and then get a Rice-Crispy treat with raisins on your way out the door.

So much of God’s problem with Israel is captured in that little phrase. God loves Israel, but they love raisin cakes. They prefer spiritual junk food to a relationship with the God of the universe. They’d rather satisfy their sweet tooth than worship the only Being in the world that is truly worthy of worship. God is offering them Himself, and they prefer candy.

Pitiful.

They don’t deserve God’s love…but He loves them anyway!

And that is the very definition of grace. God’s love poured out on people who haven’t earned it.
Sometimes we think that God loves us because we are so special. That He couldn’t possibly bear to be without us. But that’s not the case. God’s love for us always springs out of who He is, not who we are.

But there is a flip side to that as well. Sometimes we think that God couldn’t possibly love us because we are so stained. That He couldn’t possibly stand to be around us because we’ve made such dreadful choices. But that’s not the case either. God’s love for us always springs out of who He is, not who we are.

He is exceedingly gracious. God’s love is special because He loves us when we don’t deserve it in the slightest.

The Price
But it gets better. Hosea obeys God’s command and goes to get his wife. Verse 2:

2So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley.

Hosea goes down to the seedy part of town and he pays to get his wife back. This is the literal meaning of the word “redemption.” To “redeem” something is to pay a price in exchange for it. And in the Old Testament world the most common use of the word was in regard to slavery. To redeem a slave meant to pay their debts in order to release them from their master.

And what was the going rate for a married woman turning tricks in ancient Israel? The price Hosea paid to get Gomer back sounds like the list from some bizarre scavenger hunt (Jud Wilhite, Pursued, p. 110). Fifteen shekels of silver would have been about 6 ounces. A homer and a lethek of barley would have been about 10 bushels. Scholars suggest this might have been about half the going rate for a female slave at the time.

Gomer was on sale for half price.

That gives you a sense of the depths to which she had fallen. How “worthless” she had become. Most of her beauty was gone. The life had probably gone out of her eyes. Her pimp was only too ready to be rid of her. She’d stopped being profitable long ago.

It’s hard to say how costly this transaction was financially for Hosea. We don’t know if he was well off or if he had to scrimp and scrape to pull this amount of cash together. Probably it wasn’t cheap for him.

But it isn’t too hard to imagine how much it cost him emotionally. Imagine Hosea—a prophet and preacher, remember—walking into the slave market with all the lowlifes who trade in human flesh. Imagine the catcalls when his own wife is led up onto the auction block. Picture her with her head hung in shame, maybe with the wedding band still on her finger. And everybody knows who she is, and what her relationship is to the prophet.

And now Hosea is bidding on the woman who is rightfully his anyway…He’s forced to haggle and negotiate to buy back the one that already belongs to him. Imagine how much that must have humiliated him. Imagine the emotional price he paid.

Why do it? Is Hosea foolish? Is he out of his mind?

Why do this?

Because Hosea is a picture of God’s love toward us. Here’s the second point: God’s redeeming love is exceptionally costly. God’s love is sacrificial. It is a love that acts. It is a love that pays a price to buy the unlovely back.

This is the heart of the book of Hosea, this is the heart of God. This is one of the clearest pictures of the cross you will find in all of the Old Testament. God pays the price to buy back worthless sinners for Himself because of His love for them.

John 3:16. The most famous verse in the Bible: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

He gave. He bought. He redeemed us. And not at half-price!

He redeemed us with the most precious commodity in the universe: the blood of the Son of God.

Are you amazed at the redeeming love of God? You and I were Gomer. Or worse. We loved the “sacred raisin cakes” of this world. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still “Gomers” Christ died for us!

We can’t talk about this enough. We can’t thank God enough for His exceedingly gracious, exceptionally costly redeeming love. We can’t be Cross-Centered enough. We can’t dwell enough, remind ourselves enough, live inside of enough the love of God.

It is love beyond degree. It is beyond our comprehension. It should be the theme of our lives.

Are you still amazed at God’s grace to you? Do you understand how undeserving you are?

I find that people who don’t understand God’s grace don’t understand their sin. They have an idea that they are pretty good people and that God grades on the curve. Perhaps you are here today with that assumption. Of course God loves me, I’m great!

But the Good News begins with Bad News. You are not great. And neither am I. We deserve judgment, wrath, and Hell. We saw that last week. We deserve to stay on the slave block as a punishment for our adulterous ways.

But God loves us anyway!

And He gave His One and Only Son to die on the Cross to pay for our sins that whosoever puts their trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior shall not get what they deserve but will be bought back instead.

Have you put your trust in God’s Redeeming Love? Have you put yourself in the hands of God’s amazing grace?

He invites you to do so today. Right now where you are. You can turn from your sin and trust in the Savior. And you will experience God’s Redeeming Love.

Afterward
But it doesn’t stop there. God loves us in our degraded spiritual state. He accepts us where we are. But He loves us too much to let us stay there. Verse 3:

3Then I told her, ‘You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.’

Hosea puts some restrictions on Gomer: She is to live with him. She is to not have other lovers. And (it appears in the Hebrew) that, for a time, even Hosea will not be intimate with her. It could be translated, “I will live [the same] with you.”

It was sex that got Gomer into this mess, and so she is going to go for awhile without it. Gomer can’t live the same way. She is chastened and will be taught to be chaste.

And here’s the third point: God’s redeeming love is effectively transforming. When God redeems us it isn’t so that He can just leave us to suffer in our misery and mess. Rather, He intends to take us and change us. To restore and renew us. To make us beautiful again.

Hosea’s conditions for Gomer reflect God’s plans for Israel. Verse 4:

4For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or idol.

The exile will happen. And the basic institutions of life will be removed. As will their opportunities for idolatry.

There are both good things and bad things that are being taken away from Israel in verse 4. King and prince are pretty good. Sacrifice was part of the Mosaic Law. The ephod was an important part of the priestly garment. But bad kings and princes will go, too. And bad sacrifices and sacred stones and idols will be banished when Israel is disciplined.

Is this love?

Yes, this is love, too. This is transforming love.

God loves you just the way you are. But He loves you too much to let you stay that way. God accepts you right where you are today. But it is an acceptance unto change.

Israel will be deprived of these things, good and bad, so that all they have is the LORD. So they learn to trust in Him alone. And they will learn to love Him alone. Because God’s love is effectively transforming.

That is, to use a word theologians like to use, God’s love is efficacious. It accomplishes what it sets out to do.

Are you being transformed by God’s love? Are you different today because you belong to God through Jesus Christ? Christians live differently than the world, not because they are earning their salvation, but because God is working out their salvation in them.

God’s Redeeming Love is Effectively Transforming. Are you being transformed by God’s love? Or are you hindering His work in some way? Are you being transformed from spiritual nymphomania to loving the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength?

Where do you need to grow? Where do you need to change? God loves you right where you are today, but He loves you too much to let you stay there.

He has not bought you to leave you alone. “Hey, thanks for the blood, God! I’m good now.” He has bought you to change you into the image of His Son.

And He will do it. His loves is effectively transforming. It will accomplish its goal. Verse 5:

5Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days.

We don't know how things worked out for Hosea and Gomer. The Bible doesn't say anything about what their relationship was like after he brought her home. I'd like to think that it all worked out well for them. I'd like to think she realized how much he loved her and so began to genuinely love him in return. I'd like to think they had a long and happy life together. But I don't know.

We do know, however, how things are going to work out for Israel. God’s Redeeming Love will not fail.

For Israel, this started to happen in the return from exile. And then it really started to happen when Israelites became followers of Jesus.

Why do I say that? Because of that word “David” in verse 5. David Himself had been dead and gone for more than 200 years! They weren’t going to return and seek David. But they were going to return and seek great David’s greater Son.

They will come trembling to the Lord and to His blessings, His goodness, in the last days. God’s Redeeming Love will not fail. It will be effective. It will be transformative. It will change the hearts and lives of His people.

Are you being transformed by God’s Redeeming Love? What are you holding back?

The book of Hosea is calling you to root out the idols of your heart that have so long captured your attention. And kill them. Do away with your idols. No more lovers.

Only the Lord. Come trembling to Him and to His blessings.

Because of God’s Redeeming Love.

It is effectively transforming. Be transformed.

It is exceptionally costly. Accept the gift.

And it is exceedingly gracious. Be amazed. Be astonished.

Live in wonder at God’s Redeeming Love.