God's Love Offers Hope
1Once again the Lord spoke to me. And this time he said, “Hosea, fall in love with an unfaithful woman who has a lover. Do this to show that I love the people of Israel, even though they worship idols and enjoy the offering cakes made with fruit.”
2So I paid 15 pieces of silver and about 150 kilograms of grain for such a woman. 3Then I said, “Now you are mine! You will have to remain faithful to me, though it will be a long time before we sleep together.”
4It will also be a long time before Israel has a king or before sacrifices are offered at the temple or before there is any way to get guidance from God. 5But later, Israel will turn back to the Lord their God and to David their king. At that time they will come to the Lord with fear and trembling, and he will be good to them.
In this short chapter, God again commands his prophet to attach himself to an unfaithful woman. Yet this was to be a relationship without benefits. The woman was to remain entirely chaste. Despite her adventurous history, she was to refrain from sexual relations, even with the man who brought her into his home.
Hosea’s tortured love life embodies a message about the religious and political circumstances in Israel at the time. People then were more inclined to worship fertility gods than they were to be true to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Hosea warned that this unfaithfulness would cost them dearly, that for some indefinite season they would not be able to worship any god or be ruled by their own leaders. Forced abstinence.
There are times in most people’s lives when our deeds catch up to us, constraining our freedoms and restricting our ability to pander to our natural inclinations. We get hit where it hurts, be it in our wallets, workplaces or worship centres. Such times confront us with the consequences of our choices.
This can be a good thing.
Like a parent giving a child a time-out in the corner to adjust an attitude, a divinely-orchestrated withdrawal from indulgence can help any of us to see more clearly and live more wisely. This means shedding our wayward behaviours, and tuning into patterns of living that God endorses and promotes.
The bottom line, in this chapter and in common experience, is that freedom returns to God’s people when we “come in awe to the Lord and to his goodness” (v 5). This can take a while, if only because we tend to be quite set in our ways. God, however, is willing to persevere through our stubbornness and return our autonomy when we are ready to handle it.
O God, I love to indulge my own desires and control all aspects of my life. Yet I know there are times when my ways are not your ways, and that when I persist in my own strength I run into trouble. Cut me off before I destroy your good work in me. Amen.