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.”