1. The Relentless Love of God: Hosea
Is your life centered on God’s heart of love for you? It’s only in knowing God’s love that we then begin to change and love in response!
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I surrender you, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart is turned over within Me,
All My compassions are kindled.
In the Christian life, knowing God must take precedence over behavioral change. It’s only in knowing God’s love for us that we then begin to change in response! We’re not going to get anywhere if we don’t keep the relational love of God at the center of what it means to follow Christ.
The book of Hosea paints a compelling depiction of this relationship with God grounded in love. Hosea is an Israelite man called to speak on God’s behalf. His calling comes at a particularly dark point in Israel’s history, before Israel’s fall and captivity, when they’re deeply entrenched in their sin, and he’s tasked with delivering the message of God’s response to Israel’s stubborn unfaithfulness.
God declares that there is no knowledge of him in the land: although the people claim to know God, their actions are evidence that they do not know Him. God declares that Israel’s worship has been hypocritical: while Israel is going through the motions of worshiping God, at the same time, they are bowing their hearts to idols and breaking God’s commands. Their lives are full of moral and social injustice.
To create a picture of his relationship with Israel, God calls Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer, who continues to be unfaithful to Hosea after they are married. Hosea’s experience provides a lesson for Israel. Like Hosea, God is the loving husband, and like the prostitute, Israel is the unfaithful wife. But God is faithful to his people despite their behavior, and so he calls Hosea to mirror his forgiveness. In the face of his wife’s unfaithfulness, Hosea pursues her, pays off any debts she has incurred, and commits his unconditional love to her.
Oftentimes, we might take God’s forgiveness for granted; but in the same way a spouse grieves over the unfaithfulness of their partner, God’s heart aches over the broken relationship with his people! God is not unaffected by Israel’s unfaithfulness.
But even in his anger and grief, God’s compassion and mercy triumph. “How can I give you up?” God says to Israel. “I will betroth you to Me forever.” His heart is bound to his bride, and he cannot bring himself to abandon his people, even though they have abandoned him. His love for his people is relentless.
Hosea urges his people to return to the Lord in repentance so that they might experience his healing. But God knows this repentance won’t last. At the end of the book, God delivers hope for his people’s chronic unfaithfulness. “I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely,” God says.
Ultimately, for God’s people to experience this healing, Jesus had to take on the punishment that their unfaithfulness merited. He paid our debt when he sacrificed his life, and then he rose from the dead on the third day. Hosea had prophesied in Hosea 6:1-2, “[God] will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him.” Do you see the parallel? Those in Jesus are united to him so that his resurrection from the dead becomes their resurrection! Jesus’s resurrection power brings Believers new life and healing in their relationship with God.
The Bible says that Christians are the bride of Christ, and the unconditional love of God displayed in the book of Hosea is promised to follow us all the days of our life. This relationship of love is what fuels a life of faithfulness!
RESPOND: Reflect on your own perception of God. Have you lost awareness of his great desire for you? Or have you minimized your sin and taken his forgiveness for granted? Take a moment to go to God and bring your perspective back to his heart of love and desire for you.