Bought For A Price

Hosea 3:1-5 And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. 3 And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” 4 For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. 5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.

INTRODUCTION
If you’re just joining us, Hosea 1-3 is an “enacted prophecy”. That is, God called Hosea as a prophet and then commanded him to marry a prostitute as an example of how Israel was acting toward God. God also commanded Hosea to name his three children according to God’s imminent judgments upon Israel: Jezreel (which means bloodshed), No Mercy, and Not My People (those are some serious names/judgments). In other words, God commanded Hosea to act out God’s message to Israel in his marriage and family.

All of that happens in chapter 1. Chapter 2, however, waivers back and forth between Hosea and Gomer and God and Israel (it is at times difficult to tell who is really being addressed). Chapter 3, our text for this morning, includes some of the same wavering as in chapter 2. There are clear references to Hosea and Gomer and clear references to God and Israel.

The main point of all of this, once again, is that Israel had long been acting unfaithfully to God and, consequently, God sent Hosea to plead with Israel to understand that and repent from it.

This morning we’re going to wrap up the “enacted prophecy” section of Hosea by looking at all of chapter 3—a truly remarkable chapter. If you were listening carefully to chapter 2 (or last week’s sermon), you probably realized that it raises a very important question. In the first half of chapter 2 we saw the promised punishment that God would bring upon Israel. In the second half we saw the promised blessings that God would later (on “that day”) lavish upon a remnant of Israel. The important question this raises is: how do we get from promises of total destruction to unimaginable blessing? What made that shift possible? The main point of this text and sermon, one again, is answering that question. Let’s pray that God would grant us all the gratitude and repentance a right understanding of this passage requires.

GOMER’S REDEMPTION
Again, how do we get from the promised punishments of 2:2-13 to the promised blessings of 2:14-23? We find the answer immediately in chapter 3. Look at the first two verses.

Hosea 3:1-2 And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley.

In these verses God commanded Hosea to continue (“go again”) to remain faithful to a woman (whom I believe to be Gomer), who was having an emotional and sexual affair with another man. We don’t know the details of the relationship—when or how or why it began or how she ended up in a place where she needed to be ransomed from it; we don’t even know for sure if this is Gomer or a different woman—but we do know three things:

  1. First we know that God’s command to Hosea was not merely to refrain from handing her over for punishment (for her sin under Jewish law) or even to merely allow her to come back home or even to merely help her out of the difficult situation her sin had landed her in. God commanded him to go again and love her. “Go again and love a woman who is loved by another man…”.

    How often do we respond to the sins of others against us as if God’s primary command to us is to execute justice upon them? To make sure they know the sinfulness of their sin and face the consequences? How often do we dole out punishment (emotional, relational, financial, etc.) on them as if that were our job?

    We are not, of course, to enable or minimize or deny the sins of others. But the godly alternative to those things isn’t joining the justice league. It is love. It is giving ourselves to finding joy in pursuing that which is best for those acting as our enemies.

    Matthew 5:43-46 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?

    Again, the first thing we know from this passage is that God unimaginably called Hosea to love in response to Gomer’s unimaginable sin.

  2. Second, we know that Hosea obeyed God and, in love, redeemed Gomer. “So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley.” Hosea’s love became incarnate. It wasn’t merely a feeling. It was a disposition toward God and Gomer that didn’t stop working for Gomer’s good regardless of her sin.

    Imagine the indignity and injustice of having to pay money to your husband or wife’s adulterous lover in order to rescue them from their betrayal of you. That transaction makes no sense according to earthly logic. That would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it. God would never require that, would he?

    1 Peter 1:18-19 … you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold [or barley], 19 but with the precious blood of Christ…

    Grace, becoming a Christian is entirely dependent on forsaking earthly logic. Christianity rests on gospel logic. What Hosea did for Gomer is what God has done for us. We are to respond to the sins of others against us, not as we think they deserve or justice demands, but as Jesus did on our behalf, ransoming us with his blood. The second thing we know from this passage is that Hosea’s love worked itself out, giving to Gomer mercy and grace and rescue, not justice.

  3. And third, once again, we know that all of this was not ultimately about Hosea or Gomer, but about God and Israel and us! “Even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.”

    Grace, once again, we are Gomer. We are Israel. We are unfaithful. We have sold ourselves into adultery. We are treacherous. We need mercy and grace. We need rescue. Our only hope is that another would love us in our sin and purchase us from it—we cannot do that on our own.

So how did Gomer get from the promise of severe punishment to the promise of unimaginable blessing? She got there through Hosea’s love and redemption at the cost of silver and barley. How did Israel and how do we get from the promise of severe punishment to the promise of unimaginable blessing? We get there through God’s love and redemption at the cost of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ—or, as we saw last week, we got there through Easter.

Consider this afresh. Consider this in prayer and humility. Consider this and run to mercy and grace and love.

But that’s not all. Having purchased Gomer back from her sin, Hosea charged her to return changed. And, once again, this is a picture of God’s charge to his redeemed people. We see this in v.3.

GOMER’S CALL TO REPENTANCE
In my opinion–and I’ve tried to say this a number of times over the years–one of the most dangerous misunderstandings surrounding the gospel is that it is indifferent to our own good works. As good Protestants this is an easy pit to fall into. It’s easy because of how hard we’ve fought historically to highlight the bible’s absolutely essential teaching that our works have no place in our election, call, regeneration, justification, or adoption. By injecting our works into any of those we deny the gospel.

However, as tragic and deadly as it is to add our works to any of those, it’s equally tragic and deadly to keep them out of our conversion, sanctification, or perseverance. If we do not do the good work of choosing to believe in Jesus we cannot be saved. If we do not do the good work of fighting for holiness we cannot be saved. And if we do not do the good work of continuing in faithfulness we cannot be saved.

It is God’s grace that gives us desire, strength, and joy in these things, but his grace always works in and with our works in them (unlike in election, call, regeneration, justification, and adoption, which he does entirely on his own).

The practical result of this is that many Christians are entirely too casual or even indifferent to holiness. Often times we act as if God doesn’t care about our sin or that our righteousness is unconnected from our salvation. Similarly, we often act as if God’s love means that he will tolerate our sin and that loving others means being OK with (or even encouraging) their sinful choices.

The bible is clear though. God is not indifferent to even the smallest, most hidden sin. Every single sin will be punished with his infinite wrath; either in us in hell or in Jesus on the cross. There will not be one un-dealt-with sin. What’s more, believe it or not, this is love. Love, as I mentioned, is never indifferent to what’s best for another. And sin—in any amount—is never what’s best.

All of that brings us back to Hosea. Hosea loved Gomer even in her sin. He purchased her back from her sin before she had turned from it at all. He provided the payment that she entirely lacked. He welcomed her back into the family she had willingly forsaken. And he also called her to repentance.

Hosea 3:3 And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”

Hosea was not inviting Gomer back as a roommate, he was inviting her back as a wife. And so it is with God. He has no roommates—people who help themselves to his blessings while living on their own terms. He only has enemies and lovers. We will come to him on his terms—including forsaking the sin that separated us from him in the first place—and receive the blessing of his favor and faithfulness and fellowship, or we will remain his enemies. There is no other loving alternative.

Let us see ourselves in this and therein turn from our sins to God. Let us realize that this is what’s best—this is love—and the only way we will know God.

ISRAEL’S FUTURE RESTORATION
God, through Hosea (and his marriage to Gomer), was calling Israel to rescue and repentance. Israel would continue to refuse this offer of Grace. She would not immediately accept God’s offer of rescue and reconciliation. God would soon, therefore, give her over entirely to the effects of her sins. There were promises for future restoration, but what did that mean for Israel in the mean time? Let’s look to vs. 4-5 to find out.

Hosea 3:4 For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods.

Within a few years of Hosea’s prophecy the Assyrians would entirely wipe Israel out as an expression of God’s judgment. A few survivors would make their way to Judah (the Southern Kingdom), but Israel (the Northern Kingdom) would “dwell many days” (even to today) “ without king of prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods.”

There would be no rulers (kings and princes) or religious practices (sacrifice, pillar, ephod, ad household gods) because there would be no nation. God would see to it that nothing was left of the land or the people as a people for “many days”.

What may not be obvious to you and I is that this is not merely a pronouncement of punishment. It is that. But it is also a severe act of grace. By removing all of these things, God was ultimately removing everything that was keeping Israel from God. It was their hope in their kings and princes, the kings and princes of the foreign nations, and their hope in religious practices that kept them from hoping in God. God would do away with all of them and insodoing make a clear path back to him.

That thought made me wonder many times this week…how often do I/we despise God’s blessings because they come in prickly wrapping paper? How often are the harder things in my life really God’s blessing in disguise? How often to I pray against the very things God is using to draw me to himself?

Israel was about to be destroyed, but it was ultimately for her good; and, as the next verse makes clear, her destruction was temporary.

Hosea 3:5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.

There would come a time when God would turn Israel’s heart back to him as a faithful wife. The remnant of the Israelites left at that time would seek God even as we saw God would seek them in chapter 2(:14). The Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ, would rule over them and they would rightly fear God so that they would dwell in his goodness in those (latter) days.

This life is not where God’s promises will ultimately be fulfilled. Comfort and security on this side of Jesus’s return cannot be what drives us. In fact, it is often by forsaking those things temporarily now that we make most certain that we will receive them eternally in the future.

Redemption, repentance, future restoration, and finally, strength.

HOSEA’S STRENGTH
I want to close by very briefly coming at this text from a different angle.

We are mainly meant to see ourselves in Gomer, not Hosea, but there’s an important lesson we can learn from Hosea here as well. To that end, I’d like to ask you all to step back for a minute and consider the reality of this situation from Hosea’s perspective. He had been called by God to be his spokesman, to be his prophet.

A prophet was to be a man of exceptional integrity and holiness. Prophets were often tasked by God to speak hard, sharp messages to God’s people, messages they typically didn’t want to hear and would received in anger. That is why Jesus would one day say to the Jews, “Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed (Luke 11:47). A prophet’s character and integrity were crucial to his credibility therefore.

Consider again, then, the big picture of what Hosea was being told to do, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress.” Obeying that would go against everything he’d believed as an Israelite. It would irrevocably hurt his credibility, making his already difficult and dangerous job even more difficult and dangerous. And, of course, on a personal level, being married to an adulterous woman would have caused pain and sorrow and embarrassment and anger and frustration and betrayal in unimaginable ways.

Where then would Hosea find the strength to overcome all of this? How could he possibly do what God commanded without bitterness and resentment toward both Hosea and God?

In the first six words of this passage we get two answers: God’s presence and His Word.

God’s Presence
As we know, Hosea did obey God and therein experienced nothing but persecution and suffering because of it. How and why did he do it, then? It seems to me that our answer is found in the first few words of the chapter, “And the LORD said to me.” Hosea’s knowledge and experience of God’s presence were sufficient.

Hosea knew that God was with him and that that was all he needed. God’s absence + every blessing in this world = an infinite loss. God’s presence + the worst suffering this world has to offer = an infinite win.

That was Paul’s heartbeat in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Grace, God’s presence is all you need for all that he’s called you to—no matter how difficult, dangerous, embarrassing, or overwhelming it might be.

And that leads to the second source of Hosea’s hope and strength…

God’s Word
The second source of Hosea’s hope and strength was his certain knowledge of God’s will. “And the LORD said to me.” Hosea didn’t have to wonder what God wanted. And he knew that where there is clarity of God’s will, there is certainty of goodness, safety, and blessing. It is in God’s word alone that certainty of God’s will is found. Hosea’s feelings were not sufficient and neither are yours. Hosea’s wisdom was not sufficient and neither is yours. Hosea’s friend’s counsel was not sufficient and neither is yours. Hosea’s subjective impressions were not sufficient and neither are yours. The writings of the saints were not sufficient for Hosea and neither are they for you. Christian radio and movies were not sufficient for Hosea and neither are they for you. God’s word alone was sufficient to know God’s will for Hosea, and it alone is sufficient for you.

Grace, when we know God’s will—and only when we know God’s will, as revealed only in God’s word—we can walk with 100% assurance that no part of it will be in vein. Even if it leads us to our death, we have only gain.

God’s presence and his word were sufficient motivation and direction for Hosea to obey at a cost most of us will never know. It is the same for you and I. God’s presence and word are sufficient, come what may. This is the good news of the gospel, purchased at the cost of the blood of Jesus. Let us, therefore, accept God’s rescue, repent of our sins, look to our future restoration, and find hope and strength in God’s presence and word until “afterward” comes. Amen.