Hosea 2 – Israel’s Unfaithfulness Highlights God’s Necessary Initiative in Salvation

Hosea 2 starts with punishment and ends with restoration, with justice and then mercy. The Lord seems always to want to remind us that his justice has a purpose, that it is displayed in the life of Israel and brought down to us in Scripture for a reason. What might that purpose be? Maybe that sin and rebellion and worshiping other God’s have a price attached to them, that sin’s wages is death, and that death and judgment must come. In other words, God will never turn a blind eye toward sin because he can’t turn a blind eye. His ontology, his being must judge sin.

For the first 13 verses of the chapter we read lurid details of Israel’s unfaithfulness, and the consequences the Lord will bring on them as a result. Then almost whiplash like, verse 14 completely changes the tone. All of a sudden the Lord is wooing her back, and restoring her “as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.” The reference to Egypt is a reference to the Lord rescuing Israel from slavery and captivity, and the very large metaphor for his coming rescue of his people from the slavery and captivity of sin.

We know this because he uses the phrase, “In that day” three times in the last seven verses. He speaks in verse 18 of a covenant he will make with them, and that:

19 I will betroth you to me forever;
    I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
    in Love and compassion.
20 I will betroth you in faithfulness,
    and you will acknowledge the Lord.

In the ancient world when a couple got engaged a transaction took place by the bride’s family to the husband, and the husband’s family basically took possession of the woman. This seems strange to modern individualistic sensibilities, but it actually protected the woman. She was now part of the larger family or the clan, and partook of all of the rights and responsibilities of it.

And notice that the Lord is not asking permission from his people to be betrothed to him. In that culture the woman didn’t have the “right” to say no. The initiative was all the man’s, and once he decided he wanted a woman, the process started. This isn’t to say that the dynamic was always necessarily one sided, but the process of a couple getting married was nothing like it is today. As in that ancient passage of a woman going from one family to another, so the Lord takes the initiative to betroth us to him. And he does it not arbitrarily, but with both righteousness and justice, and love and compassion because he must act according to his nature. And we know this could only have been done in Christ. The end game which he points to here is what we live now:

23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
    I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’;
    and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”

This radical relational reversal, as I’ve called it, comes only from the sovereign saving power of Almighty God. The words just prior to this last verse say that his people “will respond to Jezreel.” And the name Jezreel means “God plants.” Can it be any more clear that salvation from sin is God’s work in the soul of man, not man’s response to God’s work in his soul? The latter only happens when God’s supernatural power raises us spiritually from the dead. Praise the Lord!

 

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