Class 1 - A Marriage Made in Heaven

Class 1 - A Marriage Made in Heaven

Reading: Hosea 1-3; Hymn 223


Israel, the northern tribes, had never had a righteous king.  Not one who sought after God with all his heart.  Yet God continued to work with them. 

He anointed Jehu to slay all of Ahab’s seed, which he did fervently but in the end, he did not follow God with all his heart.  In the days of Jeroboam II, Jehu’s great grandson, it even says that God “saved” them by his hand (2 Kings 14:23-29) though he was evil too.  Interesting that the word “saved” is the meaning of the name of the prophet who would begin to prophesy at the end of his reign---that is Hosea.  It was through Jeroboam that God expanded the kingdom of Israel and brought it prosperity and peace, yet for all this, the children of Israel continued to forget God. 

God’s longsuffering would not last forever.  This was the beginning of the last days for Israel.  Left unchecked the wickedness of Israel would spread to its sister Judah.  Desperate times called for desperate measures.  So, God called Hosea to enact his love for the children in the most gut wrenching way imaginable.  His marriage to Gomer and its effects would drive Hosea to prophecy for a long time.

When you look at the kings listed in verse 1, his ministry spans a great deal of time, at the least 37. Probably more like 70 years (how appropriate?). Hosea represents the start of a second wave of prophets after Elijah and Elisha.  He would be one of the first to have his prophetical verses written down and preserved for generations.   Hosea would become one of the most influential prophets, impressing his life especially on Jeremiah and Ezekiel.  His impact is felt in the New Testament where he is directly quoted by Jesus, Matthew, Paul and Peter. 

The Beginning of the Word

Considering how long he prophesied, he must have been a young man when the call came for in verse 2 of chapter 1 it says, “The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea.”  The word beginning means “commencement” or “first”.  The NKJV says,

“When the Lord began to speak by Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea:

‘Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry,

For the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the Lord.’”

Now consider yourself as a young man with all the hopes and aspirations that a faithfully righteous young man would have for a wife.  Now we read nothing of his reaction but there must have been some twinge of regret.  However, the call of God was strong in Hosea and he did as told.

Nobody had ever been asked to do anything like this before.  An enacted parable played out in an adulterous relationship.  Hosea would be one of the first prophets to knowingly live out a prophecy.  Isaiah would walk naked.  Ezekiel would lay on his side for days, burn his hair and eat dung.  None, however, would be so humiliating and crushing as what Hosea went through.  He would feel how God felt.  He would sorrow as God sorrowed.  They would share that inner turmoil of being betrayed by the person you love and trust the most.  Finally, Hosea would experience the bitterness of divorce as God divorced Israel but also he would recognize the need ultimately to seek for reconciliation.

It was to be such an important prophecy that the Holy Spirit would repeat it through Jeremiah and Ezekiel.  Hosea lived it but Jeremiah 2-3 and Ezekiel 16 comment and expand on it.  Therefore, if you bear with me I think it is extremely important we go through these passages.  When God repeats something, it is important.  When he says it three times, it is extremely important.  When he says it three times in lengthy passages of scriptures we better sit up and pay very close attention.

Ezekiel 16

Ezekiel 16 is a long chapter that will get us acquainted with these terms of matrimony that God has towards his people.  We will begin at verse 8,

“Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.”

Here we see the beautiful beginning.  God had such pity on this young child from the very beginning and had such a love for her that he entered into an everlasting covenant.  She became his in the sense of marriage.  Verses 9 and 10 continue,

“Then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. (10) I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk.”

The picture here is drawn from Israel in the wilderness.  The covering of the tabernacle was with badger’s skins and girded about with a wall of fine linen.  She was a beautiful wife in the days of her youth but she soon changed as we read in verse 15,

“But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was.”

The chapter continues on emphasizing the sin of Israel.  We pick it up again in verses 30 through 33,

How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord GOD, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an imperious whorish woman; (31) In that thou buildest thine eminent place in the head of every way, and makest thine high place in every street; and hast not been as an harlot, in that thou scornest hire; (32) [But as] a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband!

“You adulterous wife!  You prefer strangers to your own husband!” (NIV)

Under the law an adulterous wife was to be put to death by stoning.  Therefore, we see that this was to be the judgment against Israel in verses 38-40,

“And I will judge thee, as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will give thee blood in fury and jealousy. (39) And I will also give thee into their hand, and they shall throw down thine eminent place, and shall break down thy high places: they shall strip thee also of thy clothes, and shall take thy fair jewels, and leave thee naked and bare. (40) They shall also bring up a company against thee, and they shall stone thee with stones, and thrust thee through with their swords.”

Death was eminent and it looks like the end for Israel but, as we will see, the consistent message of all of these prophets is the final repentance and restoration between God and his wife, Israel.  Here is the beautiful way that Ezekiel puts it in verses 59-63,

“For thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, which hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant. (60) Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant. (61) Then thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger: and I will give them unto thee for daughters, but not by thy covenant. (62) And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: (63) That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord GOD.”

Show me a man or a woman who has had this experience and shown this kind of love and I will show you somebody who knows the love of God.  Brother Cyril Tennant in his book on Hosea (pg. 21) has a beautiful paragraph on this type of love which I’d like to read to you.

“There can be no comparison between that which passes for human love and that which is exhibited by God.  Human love always requires some object beyond itself to excite it, whereas God loves because He is love!  Human love is self-rewarding, since it is fed by its own experiences, whereas God’s love flows from Him for the benefit of the one loved by Him.  Though on occasion human love may appear to be selfless it is nevertheless an emotion which is generated by what is seen or felt; there is always some external cause to which that love is a response.  By contrast God’s love is truly selfless in that He has shown it towards man who is totally undeserving, unlovely and unlovable.”

This is truly God’s endless love for Israel.  Even though they have forsaken him for hundreds, even thousands of years, he has never forgotten his promise.  Because he chose to love that nation he would always be there pleading for their return.

Jeremiah 2 & 3

Turning now to Jeremiah 2 and 3, we will see that same message of love and patient endurance.  First of all, we see Jeremiah also establishing this marriage relationship that God has with Israel in chapter 2:2 (NIV),

“Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem: ‘I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown.”

And in verse 32,

“Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number.”

She was a bride who had forgotten about her husband.  An amazing thing.  This is also expressed in chapter 3:20-21,

“Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD. (21) A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel: for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the LORD their God.

Again the crime is adultery and God follows with his judgments in chapter 3:2-3,

“Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where thou hast not been lien with. In the ways hast thou sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness. (3) Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore's forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed.”

Also in verse 7, the divorce is official,

“And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.”

For the world, divorce is the end of the relationship, but not for God.  For God it was the only way to bring the relationship back to normal.  God’s divorce was not a final cutting off but was seen as a means for reforming her and receiving her back again.  Constantly God pleads with Israel to ‘return’ unto him.  Look here in chapter 3 verse 1,

“They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD.

The NIV puts this as a question “will you return to me?” but the answer is an implied “yes”. 

Verse 8,

“And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.”

Verse 12-14,

“Go and proclaim these words toward the north, [Why to the north?  Israel was long gone]  and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever. (13) Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD. (14) Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:”

Notice these words “towards the north”.  Although Israel had been divorced from God and carried away into captivity 100 years earlier he still said, “I am married to you.”

Verse 22,

Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God.”

And finally in chapter 4:1,

If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove.”

And so God desperately wanted his adulterous wife back but not until repentance was truly sought.  There would be a time of judgment and divorce but this was meant to bring shame and remorse for the things she had done.  Then God could give her the blessings of the kingdom as is still yet to be fulfilled.

Hosea 1-3

Now with this in mind let’s go back to Hosea. God made the prophets do some astounding things but this really is beyond comprehension.

(Hosea 1:2)  "The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD."

Hosea went and married a woman named Gomer and their relationship was going to be exactly that of Yahweh and Israel.  I don’t believe he took her in marriage as an adulterous women all ready, but Yahweh here was giving prophetic utterance as to what she would become.  Jeremiah 2:3 proves her innocent beginning,

“Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.  {3}Israel was holiness unto the LORD, and the firstfruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the LORD.”

And Ezekiel 16:14 says she was beautiful to him.

(NKJV) “Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you,” says the Lord God.”

Even Hosea in 9:10 says,

“I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time…”

From this, we learn that Gomer started as a beautiful, naïve virgin.  Now if Hosea’s marriage is a pattern of the Lord, think on this, Hosea would have fallen deeply in love with Gomer.  Oh yes, God had told him beforehand she would become a harlot but when he saw her for the first time that would have all faded into the background of the moment.  I don’t think he would have been able to help himself.  If this was to be the same as God’s love toward Israel then he loved her passionately!  That love would sustain their relationship when things went terribly wrong. 

First, they had a child together.

(Hosea 1:3-4)  "So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son. (4) And the LORD said unto him, Call his name Jezreel . . ."

Then there was another child.

(Hosea 1:6)  "And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Loruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away."

And another,

(Hosea 1:8-9)  "Now when she had weaned Loruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son. (9) Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God."

Notice that of the first child, Jezreel, it is said that she “bare him a son.”  This little detail is absent for the next two children because they were not Hosea’s children.  They were the “children of whoredoms” (1:2) and “her children” (2:4, see also 5:7)  Can you imagine that?  Hosea must have been cut to the heart!  Not only had she played the harlot but she had also had children by other men (the word “whoredoms” is plural).  God in essence is saying, “that’s exactly what is happening to me.”  These children became living signs and symbols for the whole nation for they would have all known about it through their gossiping and whispering.  Hosea would never forget it, as he would see these children all the time.

That’s how God feels.  God feels pain and sorrow.  He is not some distant cold being.   He “pleads” with her in 2:2.  The meaning behind the word “plead” is to "to toss, wrangle, hold a controversy."  The NJKV translates this as “bring charges.”  Some commentators see this as a court case for divorce as we saw in Jeremiah.   That may be the true, but as in Ezekiel and Jeremiah, so we see here in Hosea, the true meaning of God’s longsuffering and his unending love.  For God’s divorce was not a finality.  He will never give up.  He will never stop trying.  And so he establishes a plan for restoration.  He does three things marked by the keyword “therefore” in verses 6, 9 and 14.

  1. First he makes a wall of thorns so she cannot get to her lovers (v. 6).  He afflicted her in her godless pursuits so she might realize the error of her ways.  The physical temptation had to be removed yet she still had her passions in her heart.
  2. He then takes away her blessings both physical and spiritual (v. 9, 11).  A forced fasting.  Sometimes we don’t appreciate the things we have and who we have received them from until they are taken away from us.
  3. Finally, he takes her away from everything (into the wilderness, v. 14) and speaks comfortably to her.  The literal Hebrew means that “he spake to her heart”.  There is a long process to go through sometimes before someone will listen to words of truth.  This is the act of a loving patient God at work.  We must learn that there is a long hard road to restoration for those who are lost.  Through it all it’s the remembrance of the “days of her youth” that keeps him going. 

That tenderness and feeling can come back if practiced, if worked upon.  Hosea 2:16 says,

“And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali.”

Both of these Hebrew words, “Ishi” and “Baali”, have the meaning of husband with different nuances.  There is a play on words here with Israel’s idolatrous worship of Baal but there is something else here.  “Baal” literally means “master, lord” (a.k.a. “the head of the household) and has frequently been translated as “husband” and a root word means “to marry” (e.g. Jer. 3:14).  “Ishi” also is translated as “husband” or “man” and is the more affectionate endearing term.  Much like a woman might say, “he’s my man.”

Restoration will come, as it will with Israel if done correctly with judgment, longsuffering, love and comforting words (e.g. “speaking to the heart” 2:14).  God will marry her again as it says in chapter 2:18-20,

“And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. (19) And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. (20) I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.

So there is a happy ending at the end of much suffering.

The lessons of Hosea and Gomer are summarized in chapter 3:1 where God says,

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

So God was asking Hosea to do an awful thing.  To show his love to someone unfaithful to him but it was all to show a glorious pattern of God’s love towards Israel and towards us.  I believe the NIV translation has it right here.  The command is the same as in 1:2 and it is the same woman, Gomer.  Hosea would have to overcome these feelings of betrayal, hurt and bitterness, but that is what love is all about.  It’s about the choice to love.

Like the prodigal son she had sunk so low and must have degraded into slavery for Hosea had to buy her back.  Things were so bad that he only had to pay half the price of a normal slave.

That is not the end though, because like any torn relationship there has to be a sign of repentance and resolve before there can be reconciliation.  That’s what verse 3 means when it says,

“And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee.”

This was to happen nationally with Israel but it must also be a principle within our lives and our ecclesias.  There can be no reconciliation until there is a repentance and a resolve to live in Christ before a brother or sister can be accepted back into the fold.

Lessons from God’s Longsuffering

How This Affects Our Actions

I can think of no other moving example then the ones shown by God’s love to move us towards an attitude of longsuffering.  To change our minds towards the ultimate of what God can do and not towards the limitations of man.  Many places in the Bible encourage us to a love that is longsuffering.  It is part of the fruit of the Spirit.  From all the places I looked at it is closely associated with hope.  A classic example is Romans 8:24-25,

“For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?  But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”

Where hope is lost there is nothing left to live for.  Hope is the thing which drives us on to patient endurance.  That is why Paul says, “now abideth, faith, hope and love.”  True love is built on hope.  How is your hope doing?

Brothers and sisters, our hope is from God who is immortal and working in his own time.  We are but a little part of his overall purpose.  There can be no time limit set on our patience.  Is our love driven by our hope that God can work on someone’s heart and change them?

  • Maybe you yearn for someone to come into the truth.  While they are still alive we cannot give up hope.  God is the one who lives forever so who knows whether an action today will not reverberate 50 years from now.
  • Maybe you’ve been terribly hurt by someone dear to you as God has with Israel.  It might even be your spouse.  Take the lesson from God.  While they are still living there is hope for repentance and restoration.  That’s showing God’s love.
  • Maybe you know someone who has been disfellowshipped.  They are no longer in the truth.  Maybe they show not even the faintest desire to be associated with you anymore.  Remember that’s the way it was with Israel yet God never gave up on them and he will never give up on those who have lost their way.

Many of the things done to Gomer only God could do.  Giving up is losing hope in God.  God never gives up hope in us.  As he continues to work with us, as he did with Israel, he provides for us a door of hope.  Did you notice that in 2:14, “I will give her … the valley of Achor for a door of hope.”  The valley of Achor, as you may know, was named after the sin of Achan who troubled Israel.  This became symbolical of the desire and greed that plagues us and troubles not only us personally but the whole ecclesia.

Trouble and suffering are necessary though to help us to desire a better hope.  Notice also that it is a door.  A door is useless unless one knocks and passes through it.  God doesn’t push us through but it is our responsibility to take advantage of it.

Appreciating God’s Patience Towards Us

There is a second thing to learn or appreciate from these lessons of God’s divorce.  That is the appreciation of his great love towards us.  The passage in 2 Peter 3:8-9 may be familiar to us but you may not have recognized the personal nature of it.

“. . . beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (9) The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Who is he longsuffering to?  To “us-ward”, you and I.  Peter here is talking to faithful brethren and sisters.  God has shown his love towards all of humanity by first showing his love to us when he gave his Son to redeem us from bondage (1 John 4:10).   If God is so loving towards us we also should be loving towards one another. 

The final verse is found in Romans 5:6-8,

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. (8) But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

We were not much better off then adulterous Israel.  While we were yet sinners God showed his love towards us.  God is constant.  His love towards Israel is the same love he has towards us.  His love is unfathomable.  While we may read this prophecy and put ourselves in Hosea’s shoes in may be more appropriate to put ourselves in Gomer’s shoes.