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Hosea Chapters 12-14 “I Will Love Them Freely

The Book of Hosea: God’s Scandalous Grace

“Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the Lord of hosts, though their land is full of guilt before the Holy One of Israel.” – Jer. 51:5

Chapters 12-14 – “I Will Love Them Freely”

We come now to the climax of the prophecy of Hosea.  The list of failures of the northern kingdom which embraces Samaria and Ephraim is overwhelming. They have no excuse, no defense. This section parallels Paul’s indictment of Jew and Gentile in Romans 1:18-3:31. Yet after the condemnation there is an abrupt shift.  God’s mercy overwhelms any demands of the law (Hosea 6:6; Rom. 11:32).  God loves Israel freely and restores them.  In effect the whore becomes a virgin (Matt. 19:26).  This is the complete scandal and everlasting promise and hope of the gospel.

  1. “I Will Destroy You, O Israel” (13:9) – chapters 12-13

This is now the final judgement on faithless Israel.  God uses the example of Jacob who of course was the namesake for Israel.  From the womb Jacob was treacherous.  He cheated his brother out of his birthright (Gen. 25:29-34).  God is saying here that this set up a pattern of disobedience.  Yet Jacob strove with the angel of God and prevailed (Gen. 32:22-32).  He is finally reconciled with his brother whom he cheated (Gen. 33:1-17).

What God is saying here is that it is never too late to repent and to return to the Lord.  Israel has a last chance but will they take it?  Injustice still continues with the use of “false balances” (12:7).  The tragic reality is that they keep on sinning (13:2).  Israel commits a double idolatry.  On one side there is the continuing worship of the false god Baal (13:1).  There is also the worship of the two calves which first began in Egypt and was re-introduced by Jeroboam to keep people from going to Jerusalem to worship in the temple there (I Kings 12:25-33).  The golden calf represented the Egyptian cow-goddess Hathor.  This of course had first appeared in the wilderness (Ex. 32).  The expression that people are kissing calves represents the sexuality involved in the worship of these fertility gods (Num. 25:1-5).

God seeks to remind Israel that he and he alone has been their God since he called them out of Egypt.  There is no other savior (13:4).  God fed them in the wilderness.  However, after they were satisfied they forgot him.

What is this like in the living parable of Hosea and Gomer?  The inference of all this would be that Hosea, having paid her prostitute’s fee, now finds that Gomer, beyond being a whore, has become a priestess of a false god.  Her favors are now part of the worship of this false god.  The payment for her services are the offerings made to the false god.  The degeneration is so widespread that the daughters of Israel are now participating in this (4:14).

To let this sink in we have to picture Hosea, the prophet of the Lord, forced to watch his wife presenting herself as the priestess of an idol.  She invites him to join her but even he will have to pay her fee, a fee that will go into the idol’s temple.    We can imagine Hosea turning away in disgust only to be confronted with another Israelite woman approaching him and saying, “Lie with me” (Gen. 39:7).

Hosea would turn away with the conviction that no hell could be hot enough for these people.  This is where God is.  God says to them, “I will destroy you, O Israel; who can help you?”  Israel had asked for a king.  No king can save them now.  God turns them over to hell (Sheol).  God summons Death and Hell,

“O Death, where are your plagues?

O Sheol, where is your destruction?” (13:14)

This then is the end of Israel.  Gomer and the other prostitutes, along with the false prophets, should all be burnt at the stake and cast into hell.  No one could ever say that God is unjust for carrying out this judgement.  There is no more terrible statement than God saying “Compassion is hidden from my eyes” (13:14).

Can we recognize ourselves here?  If we can’t we’re not paying attention.  How many idols do we bow before, especially the one called “greed?”  (Eph. 5:5).  How much injustice are we willing to tolerate?  How many times have we promised to be more faithful and we aren’t?  Paul quotes Ps. 14:3, “There is no one who does good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10).

This then is the end of the story of a corrupt and defiant people.

But wait, it’s not the end.  How can that be?

2. “I Will Heal Their Disloyalty” – Chapter 14

This chapter begins with another call for Israel to return to the Lord.  They should confess their sin and guilt.  They need to realize that Assyria will not save them.  They must put away their idols.  They are told that in God “the orphan finds mercy” (14:3).

But this is not new.  These things have been said before and Israel has not changed.  But then God speaks.  There is no way to paraphrase the shocking message,

“I will heal their disloyalty; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.  I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall strike root like the forests of Lebanon. . . They shall again live beneath my shadow, they shall flourish like the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon” (14:4-7).

But how can this be?  Israel has been so faithless.  Yet God says that their fruit, their righteousness, comes from him. This is what Paul means when he says that we are justified by God’s grace as a gift (Rom. 3:23-24).  God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all (Rom. 11:32).  In the words of New Testament scholar, Leon Morris,

“And God’s final purpose is that he may have mercy on them all.  That purpose is not condemnation or the like.  It is always mercy” The Epistle to the Romans

This is the true gospel which cannot be compromised. It is the gospel that called Augustine out of the Roman Empire, that called Martin Luther to nail his ninety-five theses, that inspired Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Theresa. This is the gospel which changes the world.

We do not have a final picture of Hosea and Gomer. Based on the conclusion of the book we can imagine it. Hosea finds Gomer again. He loves her. She returns to him. She becomes his virgin bride.

But you say that is impossible. Yes of course it is. To conclude this study, turn to Matthew 19:26.  Read it.  Now read it again.

“Those who are wise understand these things” (14:9).

Questions for us –

1. How does the Book of Hosea expand our understanding of the gospel?

2. What can we learn from the warnings of this book?

3. What can we learn from this book’s final chapter?

Next Study – Lamentations chapters 1-3 – “The Steadfast Love of the Lord” – Jan. 3, 2018