The book of Hosea begins with a stunning command from God to Hosea: “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife” (Hos. 1:2, NIV), . . . a whore, a prostitute. The language in this book is graphic and raw. The words whore, whoredom, prostitute, and adultery appear more than two dozen times. It paints in the most painful language a sobering account of God’s covenant love for his people and the cost of their unfaithfulness. It also shows God’s unfailing love for his wayward bride and his faithfulness to her. [Right: “Hosea and Gomer” by Cody F. Miller, used by permission, click image for larger view]
Why marry an adulterous wife? “Because the land”—the people, God’s covenant people and their posterity—“is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord” (Hos. 1:2, NIV). “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me” (Hos. 11:1, NIV). “A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God” (Hos. 4:12, NIV).
The covenant was “I will be your God and you will be my people;” therefore “you shall have no other Gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol . . . You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Exod. 20:3-5).
Israel was unfaithful because “she burned incense to the Baal’s; she decked herself with rings and jewelry and went after her lovers, but me she forgot,” declares the Lord (Hos. 2:13, NIV). The insidious nature of unfaithfulness, the failure of the people to love God with all their heart and to acknowledge that all things come from him, brought ruin and punishment.
“Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now’” (Hos. 2:7, NIV). Does this language sound familiar? Remember the words of the prodigal son: “I will set out and go back to my father . . . ” (Luke 15: 18, NIV).
But in this case God speaks, “Therefore I am now going to allure her,” entice her, have bedroom eyes for her, and “I will lead her into the desert” where I can be alone with her “and speak tenderly to her” (Hos. 2:14, NIV). I’m reminded of Jesus’ words to the woman who was caught in adultery. Alone with the woman after her accusers depart, Jesus says to her, “Neither do I condemn you . . . go leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).
Next, God declares, “I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope” (Hos. 2:15, NIV). The word Achor means “trouble.” The Valley of Achor is referenced in Joshua 7 and is the place where Achan and his family are stoned for the trouble Achan brought to the nation through his coveting the devoted things after the defeat of Jericho.
At a place where judgment and death are meted out for sin, God will make a door of hope. There his unfaithful wife will sing and she will call the Lord her husband. God will remove from her lips the names of the Baal’s.
“I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord” (Hos. 2:19-20, NIV).
“I am the door,” says Jesus in John 10:9. “If anyone enters by me he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (ESV). At Calvary, the place where God meted out judgment and death upon his son for the sins of the world, there is a door of hope for the weak and wounded sinner, the unfaithful and the lost.
Through the Year with William Still: A Book of Daily Bible Readings explains it this way:
“He has shown his love towards us because he wants us to return it. This response on our part, apparently, is his greatest desire. The greatest thing God ever does in Christ is to make us love him… Yes God will dwell with us and in us and, where he is given leave, will turn every unholy propensity of a carnal life into the most dazzling beauties of self-sacrifice in love to God and other people.”
Craig Ogard is a parishioner of the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama.
Isaiah 37-39 Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. There once was a man who was vigilant and faithful. Given charge to protect his own or another’s interests, he kept the gate secure, being attentive and watchful. Though others would try to overtake the man’s possessions or knowledge or territory by force, he was […]
Isaiah 34-36 Doom and destruction. Redemption and hope. Sin and judgment. Grace and life. The prophecy of Isaiah seems to follow this rolling pattern of highs and lows, current catastrophe and future promise; our readings for today are no exception. The words in Chapter 34 are some of the hardest yet. It is passages like […]
Isaiah 31-33 The word martyr in English has come down to us from the Greek—μάρτυς— which simply means “witness.” In our Christian context, the word is most usually associated with those who have lost their lives by martyrdom—by witnessing to their faith in the face of deadly persecution. Although martyrdom is often most closely associated […]
Isaiah 28-30 “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isa. 30:15, NIV) The long-suffering character of God never ceases to amaze me. As we continue in Isaiah, these chapters show the devastation that comes to those who choose to turn away from the Lord. Yet, as much as […]
Isaiah 25-27 Hope and assurance. Remembered and not forgotten. Defended and brought freedom. It is no preacher’s hyperbole to say that Isaiah 25 is a glorious word that shakes the core of us all. You’ve been thunderstruck! God is not far off. The chapter begins emphasizing the personal nearness of God (“O Lord, you are […]
Isaiah 22-24 This winter I have the pleasure of being one of twelve table leaders for the sixth-grade confirmation class. This means that after the lesson of the day I get to spend time with a small group of kids discussing what they learned. Last week we were talking about sanctification (by the way, a […]
Isaiah 19-21 I am indebted to Professor Travis Bott of Nashotah House, who focused, for me, two ideas in Isaiah 19-21: The Lord strikes and heals (Isa. 19:22). Fallen, fallen is Babylon (Isa. 21:9). The Lord Strikes and Heals Isaiah 19 is a prophetic oracle concerning Egypt, and verse 22 is a key verse: […]
Isaiah 16-18 In a recent series of corporate meetings, consultant lingo was thick in the air. “I shared with her feedback about opportunities for personal development.” Translation: “I’m her boss and I told her where she had screwed up.” The prophet Isaiah was no obfuscating consultant: “For you have forgotten the God of your salvation […]
Isaiah 13-15 As a new convert, Saint Augustine approached Ambrose, his bishop, and asked, “What should I read to prepare me for my baptism?” What a great question. For those who have been around the recently converted, you know of the energy and joy of newly found faith. Augustine wanted to know. He had dipped […]