The Unfaithful Bride

I.       Introduction

We’ve been working through the minor prophets, and so far, our common theme is that judgement is coming.  Judgement not just for the world, for the world and everything in it belongs to the Lord, but also for the Jewish people.

And while those of us that have placed our trust in Christ Jesus are free from the penalty of sin because our savior paid it all, the judgement on Israel and Judah should give us cause for introspection and understanding of God’s love and mercy, balanced by God’s judgement and wrath.

I’ve had a discussion recently with a close friend whose church is undergoing a split over doctrine.  Important doctrine.  The United Methodist Churches Book of Discipline officially says that marriage is between a man and a woman, but some of the UMC churches are performing lesbian and gay marriages. 

These churches should be sanctioned by UMC, but they’re not.  Many liberal UMC congregations support these corrupted “marriages” and want to join the Global Methodist Church, or GMC, which is conservative.  They needed a 2/3rds vote to switch memberships to GMC, but came up short at 60%.  So those 60%, many of them are going to leave their old UMC and start a new conservative GMC church. 

Liberal apostacy is a constant danger for the church.  We like to think God’s love and mercy will surround us and protect us from evil while we are at church, but our rational mind knows that isn’t always true. Evil wants to be in our church, too.  Evil wants to corrupt and soften our teaching to make it more friendly to the world, forgetting we are to be in the world but not of this world.  I was reminded of two verses of scripture.  2 Peter 2:1-3,

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.

Staying faithful to the Lord and His precepts is difficult.  We see here in the New Testament that corruption among believers is not only possible but probable today.  It’s not only possible but probable in the future, too, as these verses from Revelation 2:20-23 to the church at Thyatira –

But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.  I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her sexual immorality.  Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.  And I will kill her children with plague.

Harsh and judgmental words from He who is worthy to judge.  In fact, it is this apostacy in the church that ushers in the Great Tribulation prophesied in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-

No one is to deceive you in any way! For it [return of Christ] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.

So we have apostacy in the present and apostacy in the future.  It will not surprise you then that apostacy is what led to the judgement of the Lord upon Israel in the past.  You’re asking yourself, “Michael, is that what today’s lesson from Hosea 3 is about?”  And the answer is yes, the unfaithfulness of Israel and the evil of fruitcake.

No really.  Fruitcake is evil.  And we will examine scripture and prove it.  But first, let’s set the stage for our story today. 

II.    Marry a Harlot and Have Children

Hosea was a minor prophet that served in the Northern Kingdom for 70 years or prosperity.  The people had independence, safety, wealth, but we know from history and from our own country that prosperity leads to corruption and spiritual depravity.  Israel broke their covenant with the Lord.  They worshipped pagan deities like Baal who is the patron saint of Planned Parenthood and promoted child sacrifice.  God chooses Hosea to illustrate how the unfaithfulness of Israel insults and angers God.  God tells Hosea in Hosea 1:2,

When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife inclined to infidelity, and children of infidelity; for the land commits flagrant infidelity, abandoning the Lord.”

Lest you think I shy away from the harsh words here, the actual word for “inclined to infidelity” is zânûwn (zaw-noon’) which mean adultery, idolatry, whoredom and prostitution.  The Lord’s first words to Hosea were unusual.  Hosea was to choose a harlot for a wife.  God apparently told Hosea to do this for two reasons. First, as God’s messenger, Hosea would be able to better understand the message God gave him to communicate to Israel. Second, Hosea’s marriage served as a living example of what was happening between God and Israel.

Hosea selected Gomer the prostitute, and together they had 3 children that the Lord named to represent God’s judgments on Israel.

The first child was named Jezreel, a place recalling the wicked blood lust of Jehu’s dynasty where the Lord will destroy the army of Israel.  Hosea 1:4,

And the Lord said to him, “Name him Jezreel; for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.  On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”

Jezreel was an uncommon name for people during that time. It was the name of a valley and a town within that valley, located between the mountains of Galilee and Samaria.  Its name means, “may God make fertile,” giving thanks to God for His provisions.  The irony of this name is that Israel had turned to fertility gods and had forgotten that it was the Lord who had blessed them.

Jezreel repeatedly has been a place of bloodshed in Israel’s history. The judges Deborah and Gideon both fought battles there.  Saul and his sons prepared for the battle against the Philistines that led to their deaths in the Jezreel Valley.  Jezreel was part of Ish-bosheth’s two-year kingdom in opposition to David.  Jezreel was the home of Naboth, against whom Jezebel drummed up false accusations so she could give his vineyard to her husband, Ahab.

Jezreel was also the place where Jehu killed Joram, the king of Israel, and mortally wounded Ahaziah, the king of Judah.  Jehu then had Jezebel, Joram’s mother, thrown from a window, then he rode over her bloody body with his horse, and left her corpse to be eaten by dogs before she was to be buried.

The breaking of Israel’s bow meant Israel would not be able to defend itself.  This prophecy was fulfilled in 733BC when the Assyrian king, Tiglath-pileser Ill conquered the region including Jezreel in 2 Kings 15:29.

Gomer then had a daughter, Hosea 1:6,

Then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. And the Lord said to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer take pity on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them.  But I will take pity on the house of Judah and save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, sword, battle, horses, or horsemen.”

God had shown compassion to Israel, but now it was time for judgment.  Lo-ruhamah means “not loved” or “no mercy.” Imagine that every time her name was called what it meant in their language. What an awful name for a little girl!  What it meant for the people of Israel was just as ominous.  God would show mercy to Israel no more.  If the people wondered if Hosea had rejected his child, Hosea could answer, “I have not rejected my daughter, but God has disavowed you! What’s more, He will take you away into captivity.” This was ultimately fulfilled when Israel’s last king, Hoshea, declared independence from Assyria. The Assyrian king, Shalmaneser V, came to Israel in 725 BC and demanded Israel’s loyalty.  Hoshea refused, Shalmaneser laid siege to Samaria for three years until it finally surrendered in 722 BC.  Then the Assyrians carried the people of Israel into captivity.

Even though the Northern Kingdom of Israel was Hosea’s main audience, the Southern Kingdom of Judah would be spared.  “But I will have compassion on the house of Judah.”  Israel would disintegrate and be dispersed into Assyrian exile, but the Lord would preserve Judah in their land.  When the Sennacherib’s Assyrian forces invaded the southern kingdom Judah in 701 BC, Jerusalem was the only city not to fall. The city was not saved by military prowess but by amazing divine intervention, just as verse 7 foretells. King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah cried out to the Lord to deliver them. The angel of the Lord went into the midst of the Assyrian camp and annihilated them, killing one hundred and eighty-five thousand. Sennacherib broke camp and returned to Nineveh. 

Why did God show compassion to Judah and not Israel?  Israel’s sins had reached a point of no return.  While Judah had godless kings, they also had some godly kings like Hezekiah. Eventually, Judah would experience the same degradation of idolatry Israel practiced, but they had not yet reached that point.

Then a third child, a boy, named Lo-ammi, meaning “not my people.”  Hosea 1:8-9,

When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and gave birth to a son.  And the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi, because you are not My people, and I am not your God.”

The Lord spoke to Hosea and told him to name his son Lo-ammi, which means “not my people.”  I think a better translation is, “I am not I AM to you.”  God hadn’t rejected Israel, but Israel didn’t recognize God as their Lord anymore.

III. Abstain and Restore

What a horrible marriage.  Hosea had chosen a prostitute for a wife, and the wife continued to cheat on Hosea throughout their marriage.  This is all an illustration of how the people of Israel treated their Lord.  Can the Lord restore this relationship?

If it is restored, it won’t be restored by Gomer.  In Gomer 2, Gomer takes all the presents that Hosea provides – she decks herself in fine wool and linen, she has expensive olive oil and wine, and she uses these gifts to entice her lovers, forgetting that it was Homer who provided them.  Israel has done the same.  A land of riches and plenty, of gold and silver, of milk and honey, and Israel is using these gifts to make love to her neighbors.

Hosea 3:1,

Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet is committing adultery, as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.”

So I told you fruitcakes were evil.  Here’s your supporting scripture.  I was actually concerned when I used this silly joke that this is all we would remember.  I’m pretty sure today’s lesson should be, “Israel cheated on God and God disciplined here in an effort to restore their relationship,” but later somebody is going to ask you what today’s bible study was about and you’re going to say, “I don’t remember, really, but let’s not give that traditional fruitcake for Christmas this year.  Fruitcakes are evil.”

Actually, the raisin cakes here represent the life of luxury that Israel lives.  Raisin cakes were an indulgence.  They’re actually mentioned like 12 times in the old testament, including part of the huge buffet Abigail provided for David in 1 Samuel 25.  And David hands out raisin cakes in celebration to the people in 2 Samuel 6, possibly the same raisin cakes Abigail provided because those things never decay and are perfect for regifting.  The raisin cakes symbolize prosperity, like in Isaiah 16:7, where the prosperity is lost –

Therefore Moab will wail; everyone of Moab will wail.

You will moan for the raisin cakes of Kir-hareseth.

So raisin cakes are the equivalent of Godiva chocolate.  Of the latest Tesla electric vehicle.  Of the latest iPhone.  You get the idea.  Israel loved her luxury.

Hosea loved Gomer anyway despite Gomer’s infidelity.  Hosea’s love was to be patterned after God’s love, a love that is given to those who do not deserve to be loved.

Notice that Hosea did not call the woman by name.  Gomer is now just “a woman.”  Some commentary suggest that Gomer forfeited her identity when she committed adultery against Hosea, just as Israel forfeited its identity as the people of God because of their unfaithfulness to Him.

Gomer the prostitute had become Gomer the adulterous.  Only a married person can be an adulterer.   Gomer’s relationship to Hosea is just like Israel’s relationship to the Lord.   

Israel was once the prostitute.  Before Abraham, Israel’s ancestors worshiped other gods in Mesopotamia.  Then God called Abraham to Himself and made a covenant with Abraham’s descendants at Mount Sinai.  They were in a covenant relationship.

But now Israel is an adulterer.  They are in a covenant relationship with the Lord, but Israel’s passion is elsewhere. 

Hosea 3:2,

So I bought her for 15 shekels of silver and five bushels of barley.

What happened to Gomer?  She’s enslaved by her sin.  She’s wound up in slavery because of her sin.  Commentators aren’t sure if she’s enslaved to another man or if she’s become a temple prostitute, but we do know she cannot escape on her own.  Hosea will redeem her.

Is there meaning in the amount?  Leviticus 27:4 says the price of a slave is 30 shekels of silver.  Some commentary say that Gomer is worth less now because she has defiled herself, but that doesn’t ring as true.  I think it’s because it was costly to Hosea who had only 15 shekels of silver and gave all he had, then had to include 5 bushels of barley as well.

It is difficult to know why Hosea needed to purchase Gomer. Most likely either she had become the personal slave of someone or she had become a temple prostitute. In Hebrew, the word translated bought implies the purchase involved some haggling. What’s more, the fact that Hosea needed to include nine bushels of barley with the fifteen shekels of silver may indicate the purchase was costly for Hosea, not having enough shekels to make the purchase.  Either way, Hosea redeemed Gomer from her sin and slavery.

Hosea 3:3-5,

I said to her, “You must live with me many days. Don’t be promiscuous or belong to any man, and I will act the same way toward you.

For the Israelites must live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, and without ephod or household idols.  Afterward, the people of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They will come with awe to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days.

Hosea took in Gomer and instructed her that she should live with him in total abstinence of sexual relations with any man, including Hosea, for many days. This suggests the time would come after these many days when they could once again resume the normal life as husband and wife. The goal for Hosea was the resumption of his covenant relationship of marriage with Gomer.

Verses 4-5 explain the analogy of Hosea’s marriage as it reflects what God would do with Israel.  For a time, Israel would be without a king, a priesthood, or any idols.  Then when their time of probation came to completion, Israel would return and seek the LORD their God and David their king.  This promise anticipated the return of the Davidic kingship. Amos and Ezekiel and Jeremiah all prophesied that the throne of David would be restored.

The David of whom Hosea speaks is the Lord Jesus Christ.  The restoration of the people of God would be complete in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

IV.    Conclusion

Like Gomer, Israel was purchased and redeemed for a high cost.  Like Gomer, and like Israel, you and I were also redeemed, though the cost was far higher that 15 shekels of silver and 5 bag of barley.  You and I were redeemed in blood, perfect divine blood that could only come from our Savior.  A Savior who gave his life so that He may be reunited with His love.

God truly loves us, though we have been unfaithful.  God sacrificed Himself through His Son that we may live.  We have been set free from our sin and slavery.

With our faith in Christ Jesus, we are considered pure, not through our works, but through the perfect works of our Lord and Savior.  Now pure, the church, the bride of Christ, is made ready.  Revelation 19:6-7,

Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder, saying:

Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty,
has begun to reign!
Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory,
because the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and His wife has prepared herself.

All glory to God through Christ alone.  Amen.