The Wife Who Walked Away part 3
As a child at home, and again as an employee in an oil and gas company, I was exposed to a great deal of Country and Western music. Adultery and unfaithfulness were common themes. I remember one song in which a husband mused, "If fingerprints showed up on skin, I wonder whose I’d find on you." Another asked his wife, "Does my ring hurt your finger, when you go out at night?" For good or for bad, those songs captured the emotional pain and trauma of having an unfaithful mate.
Nothing is so destructive to the marriage relationship as the unfaithfulness of one of its partners. When the infidelity is discovered, the betrayed partner often experiences a variety of feelings – anger, rejection, shame, and grief. Hosea may have been a prophet, but he was still a man. Although he had been forewarned what to expect, I believe that he was hurt by Gomer’s unfaithfulness as deeply as any other husband or wife whose marriage vows have been broken.
This section indicates that Gomer had left her husband and was living openly with other men. The Law of Moses called for the death of Gomer and all her lovers. Deuteronomy 22:22 dictates that "if a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die." However, it is not law that is determining the course Hosea is to take, but love. As Hosea responded to Gomer’s unfaithfulness, so God would respond to the unfaithfulness of Israel, the "wife" of His youth. [See Isaiah 54:5-6; Jeremiah 3:14] Like Gomer, Israel had walked out on God. She had given herself completely over to idols. By all laws, both human and divine, she deserved to be abandoned and punished for her infidelity. But God would not go back on his marriage vows. He graciously charted a course designed to bring His wife home again and restore the relationship to what it should have been.
As we continue this study, we will see many parallels to our own lives and circumstances. There is truth here to be appreciated and applied today. However, we have to remember that the primary message of Hosea was prophecy. It concerns Israel, her past, and her future. That, too, must be taken into account. It would not be right to merely focus on the parallels and ignore the prophecy. If we are to "rightly divide the Word of Truth," we must study it in its context.
Hosea chapter two has three parts:
- A Plea for Israel’s return
- The Path to Israel’s recovery
- God’s plan for Israel’s restoration
We will study the first two in this lesson, and the final portion in the next lesson.
I. A Plea for Israel’s Return – Verses 1-5
- The Appeal (1-2)
- The prospect of restoration – verse 1
- At the time of Hosea’s preaching, Israel had not yet been delivered for judgment. They were still "Ammi" and "Ruhamah, the people of God to whom the mercy of God was still available.
- Even at this late stage of Israel’s sin and treachery, God was willing to receive His people back and deal with them in grace and mercy.
- The prerequisite of restoration – verse 2
- Love can be given without any prospect of its being returned, but for a relationship to exist, both parities must be committed.
- God was calling Israel to leave her lovers and commit herself exclusively to Him.
- The demand for Gomer to put away her whoredoms out of her sight suggests that she was proud of her illicit affairs. She did not attempt to hide them.
- The demand for her to put away … her adulteries from between her breasts suggests that she felt no shame, no remorse over her condition. She clutched her sins to her breast in a tight embrace.
There are three important truths communicated in this appeal.
- First, the person who would return to a broken relationship must be confident that he will be received. God’s gracious offer of restoration contained that assurance. He let Israel know that He was still committed to them. He loved them.
- Secondly, the person who would return must also demonstrate a commitment to restoring the relationship by humbling themselves, demonstrating genuine remorse, and making a complete break with that which violated the relationship.
- Thirdly, restoration cannot occur on any other grounds. Our relationships with our marriage partners and with God are exclusive relationships. They demand a total commitment and mutual respect that is demonstrated by wholehearted devotion.
- The Alternative (3-5)
- God’s resolve
- If Israel rejected God’s appeal, then He would withdraw from them the benefits He contributed to the relationship.
- No longer would she be able to count on Him for food, clothing, and a roof over her head.
- Having rejected the commitment of relationship, she was forfeiting the benefits of relationship. (See verse 5 – "I will go after my lovers, that give me…")
- He would also be forced to discipline her children (future generations) because they were following in the footsteps of the parent generation.
- There is a general principle in life that what one generation allows in moderation, the next generation practices in excess. (Consider America’s attitude toward sex in the 90’s, the seeds of which were sown in the 60’s.)
- Eventually, sin reaches a point where it can no longer be tolerated, but will be judged by God if it is not judged by the nation.
- God’s reason
- Like Gomer, Israel had decided that her lovers could do a better job of meeting her needs. She looked to idols to provide the staples of life. (See verse 5b)
- God was willing to let her go, let her discover for herself how empty her idolatrous relationships would prove to be.
- He would make her like the wilderness – a barren, empty place – and slay her with thirst, making her painfully aware of her unfulfilled desires.
- He would prove to her that nothing could satisfy her spiritual longings apart from a vital relationship with God.
Do these truths apply to our lives today? Absolutely. The idols of our heart that often replace God are not made of wood or stone, but they are just as real. We put our trust in our abilities, our skills, our job, our health, and an assortment of other modern idols. We admit our need of God for spiritual things, like going to heaven, but we are confident in our own resources for most everything else. So, God has to withdraw His active blessings. We are bombarded with problems, weighted down with cares, until finally, when we are at our wit’s end, we collapse before God and confess our utter helplessness. Why does God do this? To slay us with thirst, to show us that He alone is capable of meeting ALL our needs.
II. The Path to Israel’s Recovery – Verses 6-13
- The path of difficulty. (6-8)
- Divine barriers – "hedge up thy way … make a wall"
- The hedge of thorns was a barrier erected by farmers to enclose their fields.
- They were designed to keep animals from breaking through and getting to the crops.
- The hedge could be penetrated, but it was painful to do so because of the thorns that tore at the flesh.
- The wall was a different kind of barrier. Unlike the hedge, it was more permanent and much more difficult to penetrate or overcome.
As a means of turning Israel back to Himself, God would impose divine restraints. These would fall into two categories, the hedge and the wall. If Israel persisted in pursuing her idols, she would find the way blocked by a hedge of thorns. Trying to pass through that barrier would result in suffering and loss. If this did not get Israel’s attention, the wall would. It would stop her cold – keeping her from meeting her desired ends. Finally, she would find herself shut up, with no place left to turn but to God.
The hedge represented the years of struggle that remained to Israel in the land. The wall represented the coming captivity when Israel would be completely shut up in foreign lands.
- Disappointment and frustration – "shall not find … shall not find"
- Every where Israel turned for aid would result in disappointed hopes and increased frustration.
- God would use this to make Israel remember how satisfying it was when she was faithful to her "husband."
- God’s discipline is meant to be corrective – turning us to Him – not destructive.
- The path of disclosure. (9-10)
- God would expose the bankruptcy of her idols – Verse 9
- God was promising to remove from Israel all the things she had come to depend on to "cover her nakedness."
- Then Israel would learn that even in her sinful condition, it had been the grace of God that had provided her with the measure of prosperity she enjoyed.
- God would expose the baseness of her character – Verse 10
- The word "lewdness" is a word that refers to moral depravity or corruption.
- Instead of being viewed as a secret lover, she would be looked upon as a common whore – an object of loathing and disgust.
- She would fall out of favor with her lovers – and nothing she could do could prevent it from occurring.
- The path of discipline. (11-13)
- Her festivities will cease – Verse 11
- Her fruitfulness will be destroyed – Verse 12
- Israel had come to believe that the false gods of the idols were blessing the land with fertility and fruitfulness. It was their "reward" for her devotion.
- God was going to judge the harvest, making the vineyards and groves unfruitful.
- In addition, when the Assyrian army passed through, they ravaged the land – tearing down fences and barriers – so that the vineyards and groves were no longer protected from beasts. They became like the forest – overrun by wild beasts that ate the fruits the vines and fig trees produced.
- Her failures will be remembered – Verse 13
- The word visit involves both retribution and remembrance.
In her worship of Baalim (the many idols imported into the land), Israel had forgotten God. As she is punished for her folly, she will remember every day that was wasted in worshipping idols.
- The purpose of this visitation is to bring Israel to the place of remorse, repentance (a change of mind concerning idolatry), and return.
It is important to remember the setting in which these words were written. Israel was prospering for the first time in a long time. As far as she was concerned, she didn’t need God. He was history; the future lay with Baal. But God could see where she was headed. He loved her too much to let her continue down the path of idolatry uncontested. So he planned a crisis in her future – a crisis designed to make her choose between his true love and the deception of her idols.
The same is true in our own lives. If we won’t listen to the loving appeals of God to maintain that exclusive relationship with Him, then He will design a crisis to show us the bankruptcy of our modern idols. He will take us down the path of ruin, until He is able to implement His plan of restoration.