Hosea 3:1-5

The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then 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 behave the same way toward you.”

For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or household gods. Afterward 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.

Well, you might be thinking, this is a strange passage for an advent devotional.  And yet, James Boice called this the greatest chapter in the Bible, because it portrays the greatest story in the Bible—the death of Jesus for his people—in the most concise fashion.  God told Hosea to show love to his unfaithful wife Gomer and to buy her back, and command her to be faithful to him.  The prophet goes on to apply this to faithless Israel, who had left their faithful God.

Although the word is not often used in this context, the Bible portrays marriage as a covenant (see Proverbs 2:17, Ezekiel 16:8, Malachi 2:14).  Thus Hosea, in continuing to love his straying wife, was portraying the faithful love of God for his straying people.  “Humanly speaking, Hosea’s love for Gomer did not make any sense.  But that is the very point of the message.  God’s love for sinners does not make any sense apart from His free and sovereign grace” (Michael Barrett).

In ancient times, slaves were sold naked.  There stood Gomer, an unfaithful wife, naked before the crowd, and God told Hosea to buy back his own wife.  Can you imagine the scene?  Perhaps there were people there who knew Hosea and Gomer, and who were wondering why on earth Hosea would want his unfaithful wife back, and why he would even pay to get her back.  Dear brothers and sisters, you and I are Gomer.  We have been unfaithful to our God; the world bids for us, but Jesus offered his own blood for us, the highest bid possible.  And so we have become his.  “As amazing as Hosea’s love for Gomer was, it pales in comparison to God’s love for us” (Michael Barrett).

Truly, God’s love for his people is “love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven, to earth come down” (Charles Wesley).  If you are trusting in Jesus alone for salvation, you have been redeemed not with silver and barley but with the precious blood of Christ (I Peter 1:18-19).  “Blessed are those who have been invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Revelation 19:9) Come, Lord Jesus, and claim your bride!

Which of all our friends, to save us,
could or would have shed his blood?
But our Jesus died to have us
reconciled in him to God.
This was boundless love indeed;
Jesus is a Friend in need.

O for grace our hearts to soften!
Teach us, Lord, at length to love;
we, alas! forget too often
what a Friend we have above:
but when home our souls are brought,
we will love you as we ought.

(John Newton)

© 2023 Stephen A. Hoogerhyde.

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