How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warms and tender. I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath. - Hosea 11:8-9
God makes it absolutely clear in the book of Hosea that Israel is a whore. Again and again, as in the example of Gomer in chapters 1-3, Israel goes off and whores after other gods. They do not love the Lord. They do not honor him. They do not respect him. They pay lip service at best. They turn to him only in times of desperation and even then do so reluctantly. Yet, God makes it absolutely clear in the book of Hosea that he will not, in fact cannot, give Israel up. He moves towards them in grace. Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. How can this happen? How can this be? Is this not astonishing? If it’s not, re-read the book of Hosea! See the sin of the people! See the wickedness of their heart! Then, turn and see the Lord’s mercy and grace! If it doesn’t stir your soul then you need to be saved from your blindness. If it doesn’t stir your soul, you do not yet understand who the Lord is. God gives us the book of Hosea to show us the immeasurable love with which he has loved us. It is a kiss from heaven, a Valentine from the almighty, an epic love story from above.
Chapter 11 of Hosea brings us to one of the many climaxes within the book and perhaps my favorite of all. After laying out for the 100th time the sin of Israel, God then asks himself, and the Israelites, how can I give you up? The answer is clear! Look at the sin! That’s how you give them up! Burn them! They are deserving. Yet the Lord’s compassion grows warm and tender. He says he will not execute his burning anger; he will not destroy them. Why? Because he is God and not man. He doesn’t stoop to our level. He’s too good for that.
Within the book of Hosea, it seems that chapters 1-3 set the stage for everything to come. In chapter 11 we see the Lord affirming what chapter 3 tells us – “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel.” Hosea goes to the marketplace, the whorehouse, to buy back his wife. Hosea is a man of God. He’s a prophet. And yet he marries a whore. He is rejected by his whoring wife and finds himself in the middle of a bidding war for her. He buys her back at great expense to his own reputation. He does it because he’s showing the love of God towards his people from whom he holds nothing back, even at great expense.
The book of Hosea is a great love story. It is pointing us to a Valentine’s Day gift unlike any other. It’s pointing us to the cross of Christ. God can say that he will not execute his burning anger on his people because all of that anger was poured out on Jesus on the cross. God can say he will not again destroy his people because all of that destruction fell upon Jesus as he was hanging on the tree. God’s heart recoils within him because Jesus is buying us back. God’s compassion grows warm and tender because Jesus has redeemed us. The wrath we deserve was sent to Jesus. The anger we rightly are due was handed over to the Christ. The destruction we should endure destroyed Jesus, who was bloodied for our sin, and died on a nasty cross. And the compassion, the warmth, the tenderness, the life, the justification, the grace, was given to us by the hand of the loving God as Jesus got up from the grave and walked out of the tomb.
Hosea is a great love story. It’s a story of God who takes a wife. It’s a story of a wife who cheats on her husband. It’s a story of the husband loving his wife back into relationship. It’s a story of the gospel. We have a God who loves us. We are a people who have sinned against him. And we have a God who will get us back, even if it means entering into a whorehouse, where he doesn’t belong, and taking all of the wrath, anger, and destruction we deserve. Even if it means dying for those who don’t deserve him. Hosea, then, is a book that shows us how Jesus is our great Hosea and we are his dirty bride. And he has brought us back to him. And when Jesus went to the cross, he did not go in wrath but rather to absorb it for his brothers and sisters.