Hosea 2:2-13 “Plead with your mother, plead- for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband- that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts; 3 lest I strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and make her like a parched land, and kill her with thirst. 4 Upon her children also I will have no mercy, because they are children of whoredom. 5 For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’ 6 Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. 7 She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’ 8 And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal. 9 Therefore I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season, and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness. 10 Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall rescue her out of my hand. 11 And I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts. 12 And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees, of which she said, ‘These are my wages, which my lovers have given me.’ I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall devour them. 13 And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the LORD.
If you’re just joining us, welcome. Welcome to Holy Week and welcome to Hosea. Holy Week is the time from Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to his resurrection. Hosea was a prophet of God. This book that bears his name is a collection of the prophecies he made to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The overall message of the book concerns God’s fiercely jealous love, and its implications for unfaithful Israel. Consequently, the overall tone of the book is harsh, severe, and highly emotive. Nevertheless, as we saw last week, though Israel’s unfaithfulness has led to her impending destruction, there are glimpses of grace and mercy and hope sprinkled throughout.
In the first three chapters of the book all of this is portrayed through an enacted prophecy—a real-life physical representation—in Hosea’s marriage to Gomer. That is, God commanded Hosea to marry a prostitute, Gomer, to have kids with her, and to name them “Jezreel” (which was synonymous with Bloodshed), “No Mercy,” and “Not My People.” God did this as an unforgettable way of teaching Israel about the horrific nature of her disobedience, unfaithfulness, and idolatry. In other words, in chapters 1-3 Hosea represents God (in his faithfulness in the midst of unfaithfulness), Gomer represents Israel (who has given herself to spiritual adultery), and the kids represent God’s judgments on Israel (their blood will be shed, God will not show them mercy, and God will no longer accept them as his people).
In our passage for this morning, we find three sections: context, content, and consequences.. In the first (context), Hosea is pleading with his children. In the second section (content), we find the content of Hosea’s plea. And in the third section (consequences), we find the consequences of Gomer failing to do so.
Through Hosea’s words to his children for his wife, Gomer, we are really listening in on God’s perspective on and plans for Israel. And in that eavesdropping, we will find several very important messages for ourselves as well. Let’s pray that God would use this passage to wake us up to our spiritual whorings in time to run to safety in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
THE CONTEXT: PLEADING FOR GOMER/ISRAEL TO RETURN (2:2A)
1:2-9 is presented in the third person. It is as if someone from the outside is recalling the early events of Hosea’s prophetic ministry. Beginning in 2:1 there’s a shift to the first person. It is as if Hosea himself is now speaking. There have been various attempts to explain this shift, but none of them change the situation or do much to help us to understand it. The simple point of this section is this: Hosea charged his children to make a plea to their mother (as a provocative way for God to communicate his plea to Israel).
“Plead with your mother, plead…
This is an interesting approach to say the least. Why Hosea pleads with Gomer through her children is not entirely clear (especially since part of his message is that the children will be punished as a result of Gomer’s unfaithfulness, v.4). Hosea doesn’t tell us why he does this and therefore, once again (like with the shift in person), it’s probably best not to put too much stock in speculations. The main thing I want to draw your attention to here is the seriousness and concern with which Hosea introduces his message—it is a plea.
He didn’t call on his children to gently approach their mother whenever they got around to it. He didn’t tell them to casually bring it up the next time they saw her. He charged them to “Plead with your mother, plead…”. Emotionally appeal, beg, implore, entreat, beseech!
Hosea’s message was so significant that it required far more than a simple request or encouragement. Let me ask you, what would it take for something to fall into that category for you? What is big enough or important enough for you to beg, implore, entreat, beseech, plead with someone to do (or not do) something? When is the last time you pleaded with someone and why?
Perhaps more importantly, what does it take to raise God’s emotions to the plea level? What kinds of things does God feel the need to plead for? In this passage we find one answer to that question: Both God and Hosea reached their pleading point in the unfaithfulness of their love.
THE CONTENT OF THE PLEA: TURN FROM WHORING (2:2B, 5)
What, specifically, was Hosea’s plea to Gomer and God’s plea to Israel? It was this:
2:2 Plead with your mother, plead – for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband- that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts…
Just as Israel was acting unfaithfully toward God, Gomer was not acting like Hosea’s wife. (That’s the essence of “she is not my wife, and I am not her husband”—it didn’t mean that they’d been divorced.) Instead, she had whored herself out to other men, even as Israel had whored herself out to other nations and gods. What, specifically, did that mean? For Gomer, beyond the obvious, it also meant three things that were even worse.
First, as we see in v.5, Gomer’s whorings were such that it was she who sought out other lovers—they did not seek her. That is the most likely meaning of “that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts.” She had put on seductive makeup and necklaces and jewelry for the expressed purpose of enticing men who were not her husband.
Second, and even more serious, was the fact that she attributed Hosea’s blessings to the men with whom she committed adultery. That’s the meaning of the second half of v.5, “For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.'” Likewise, she attributed her vines and fig trees to her lovers, “‘These are my wages, which my lovers have given me.” But the reality was that “…she did not know that it was [Hosea] who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold…” (2:8).
Grace, consider how disgusting this is. Gomer had a husband who loved her and provided for her and was faithful to her. She had no need to go after any other man. What’s more, her adulteries were not accidental encounters. She sought them out, on her own, with nothing external compelling her to do so.
Elijah Patz eating ice cream off the ground at Nelson’s.
Third, and most serious yet, Gomer not only played the whore, sought out men to be unfaithful with, and attributed Hosea’s blessings on her lovers, she also used her adulterous relationships and Hosea’s blessings to worship false gods. She took the lavish amounts of grain, wine, oil, silver, and gold given to her by Hosea, wrongly gave credit for them to her lovers, and then, together with them, used them “for Baal” (2:8) worship.
Gomer really did these things. She really committed these atrocities. And yet, as bad as they were, they pointed to something much, much bigger. Israel as a nation had done these things to God. Israel had everything she needed (and infinitely more) in God. God sought her out when she was nothing. Ezekiel describes it like this,
Ezekiel 16:4-6 And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. 5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born. 6 “And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’
And yet, rather than live in the love and safety and blessing and family that was offered to her, Israel chose to run after other nations and other gods for these things. She chose to align herself with God’s enemies, who were after (and eventually caused) her destruction, rather than God who was after her joy. She chose to believe that she, the surrounding nations, and their gods were the source of her prosperity and protection instead of God. She chose to use God’s blessings as instruments of prostitution.
This is Gomer, this is Israel, and this is all of us. We are Gomer and we are Israel. We are born with appetites and desires, not for God, but for things that will kill and destroy us. We constantly take credit for or wrongly attribute God’s blessings to others. We take delight in the things that God has made without acknowledging God as the one who made them. Do you see this in yourself, Grace? Is your spiritual harlotry plain to you?
The question, then, is: Where did that leave Gomer? Where did that leave Israel? And where does that leave us? The fact that Hosea calls his children to plead with her, along with the conditional clause in v.3 (lest), together indicate that there is still time for Gomer/Israel to truly repent, but also that the time is fast running out.
The rest of our passage for this morning does not tell us how Hosea or God felt about these things (we’ll see more of that later). It simply tells us what God will do. That is, it tells us four consequences that Gomer and Israel (and we) face when God’s plea is ignored.
THE CONSEQUENCES FOR IGNORING THE PLEA: DESTRUCTION (2:3-13)
If you’ve been a part of Grace Church for any length of time you know that we are committed to what is known as expositional preaching. One of the practical results of this approach to preaching is that we end up in passages like this. Another practical result of our commitment to expositional preaching is that when we come to passages like this—passages of sin and punishment of the most serious kind—we don’t try to soften the edges or make excuses for God’s behavior, or try to make it more palatable for visitors or non-Christians. We don’t pretend that we don’t know about the gospel, but we also don’t pretend that anyone can begin to understand it apart from knowing the fierce jealousy of the God of the gospel.
There is a danger in reading passages like this apart from knowledge of Jesus and the forgiveness and rescue he offers. To do so would almost certainly leave us in despair and without hope. It may also wrongly make it seem like we need to earn our way into God’s favor. But there is also great danger in reading passages like this and moving too quickly to grace. To do so would leave us with a too-tame view of God’s holiness and wrath and jealousy, and a too-soft view of our sin and its offensiveness to God.
My encouragement, therefore, is to listen carefully and truly fight to understand and accept the facts that God is still this holy and jealous, that we are still this sinful and adulterous, that this and more is still the punishment that we deserve, that everyone (even people who claim to be hoping in Jesus) who persist in this type of unfaithfulness will still receive these (and more) consequences, and that our only hope is God’s mercy and grace.
With that, let’s consider the effects of God’s jealous love on his faithless people.
Remove Every Blessing (2:3, 9, 11-12)
Because of how difficult it is to untangle how each of these consequences uniquely apply to Gomer and Israel, and because they are all ultimately for Israel, in this final section I will simply focus on Israel. Again, then, what will happen if Israel does not heed God’s plea through Hosea and repent?
First, we see in several places that if she persists in her unfaithfulness, God had determined to remove every blessing that he had given to Israel.
Israel must turn from her whoring or else God will 3 …strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and make her like a parched land, and kill her with thirst.
9 …I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season, and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness.
11 And I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts. 12 And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees, of which she said, ‘These are my wages, which my lovers have given me.’ I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall devour them.
As we saw earlier, Israel wasn’t even aware that God was the source of her blessings. She thought they had come from those with whom she had prostituted herself—the pagans and their false gods. Israel had come to believe that Baal, not God, was able to provide the things she most wanted and needed. In particular, Israel, desperate for crops and children had turned her hope to Baal, a Canaanite god of fertility.
It was precisely because she most wanted those things and believed that they were found in anything other than God, that Israel was arousing God’s jealousy and anger—that was the essence of her adultery. And so you must ask yourself, Grace, what do you want most? And where do you think it comes from? When you receive blessings, do you delight in them as ends in themselves, or do they point you to the Giver of all good things?
By failing to want God above all things (even his blessings) and accepting that God alone can provide what she needed, Israel had incurred the promise of God’s wrath in the form of the removal of every blessing.
Punish Even Her Children (2:4)
Second, we see that for her persistent unfaithfulness even Israel’s children will be punished.
4 Upon her children also I will have no mercy, because they are children of whoredom.
But what does that mean? The most likely interpretation of this passage in relation to Israel is that Hosea was referring Israel as whole as the mother (Gomer) in this passage. And he was referring to the children as individual Israelites. The point he’s making, then, is that the nation as a whole will be punished and so will each child of Abraham for their complicity—for their sins of omission in the face of such serious sins of commission.
Here’s a significant point for you and I: we are not only responsible for our own actions. When we accept Christ’s offer of forgiveness, we are brought into his kingdom and family. That is, we are saved into a people. Consequently, the NT is filled with corporate commands. In particular, the NT is filled with commands for Christians to be concerned for the sins of the Church.
Matt 18:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him…
James 5:19-20 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
You and I cannot sit back and feel safe if members of our church are walking in unrepentant sin. We will be held accountable for those in our congregation even as the “children” of Israel were.
Block Path of Return to Lovers (2:6-7)
The third explicit punishment that God promises is found in 1:6-7
6 Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. 7 She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them.
Israel had gone to the Egyptians and Assyrians and Baal instead of God. She had temporarily and counterfeitedly found some protection and provision in them. But God determined to cut off her path to them.
As a result Israel “shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.'” But here is where Israel’s heart is truly put on display. God was never her love. Neither were the enemy nations or gods. Israel was using God to get stuff. In the same way Israel was using the Assyrians and Egyptians and Baal. In other words, Israel didn’t love God (or even the enemy nations or false gods), she loved what they could give her.
Again, is it easy for you to see that it is different for you? Is it God or his blessings that your heart longs for?
Turn Lovers Against Her (2:10)
Finally, God promised to expose Israel’s shame even to her lovers.
10 Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall rescue her out of my hand.
Not only would God block Israel’s path back to her lovers, he would also cause her lovers to no longer want her back.
Imagine giving up your entire family for an adulterous affair only to be quickly dumped by the one you left your family for. Imagine forsaking your friends for drugs only to lose the ability to get high. Imagine losing your job because of your time at the casino only to be banned from it. Imagine choosing to gossip and slander someone only to become the object of their gossip and slander. That is what God promised as punishment.
God alone can truly satisfy for we were truly made for God alone. What a terrible curse it is to have left God for something or someone that summarily leaves us. Sin only promises what it can’t deliver and it can only give what we don’t want.
All of this is perhaps best summed up in 2:13, “And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the LORD.”
Grace, may we run from such irrational and deadly idolatry. May we run from such foolish depravity. May we be faithful to the One who made us and loves us and offers to rescue us from our adultery against him.
What a perfect segue into Holy Week. What a perfect message for Palm Sunday. It is because we are Gomer and Israel and it is because the consequences for that remain the same that Easter is so amazing. Easter is the good news that God rescued and redeemed his adulterous people. Easter is our reminder that we will not get what we deserve for our unfaithfulness because of the faithfulness of Another—Jesus Christ. Turn to him, therefore, Grace. Turn to him in faith and be rescued from the wrath to come, forgiven, washed clean, and risen from the dead. Amen.