Hosea: A Divine Betrothal




God’s love for Israel is hard to understand.  Almost from the very beginning she had rebelled against Him, complained, and been guilty of spiritual adultery.  Israel’s sin ran so deep; it was as though rebellion was in her DNA.

For their mother has committed adultery. She did a shameful thing when she said, ‘I’ll run after other men and sell myself to them for food and drinks and clothes.’  (Hosea 2:5  TLB)

But God’s love for Israel did not depend on her loveliness.  In fact, God’s love for sinful man has nothing to do with sinful man.

In this act we see what real love is: it is not our love for God but his love for us when he sent his Son to satisfy God’s anger against our sins.  (1 John 4:10  TLB)

Yes, God’s love is very difficult to understand.  It’s agape love; a special love that is unconditional.  God loves us as much as He can—He will never love us less, and He cannot love us more.

The allegory in Hosea illustrates this concept of God’s amazing love better than any sermon ever could.

I will bind you to me forever with chains of righteousness and justice and love and mercy.  I will betroth you to me in faithfulness and love, and you will really know me then as you never have before.

“In that day,” says the Lord, “I will answer the pleading of the sky for clouds, to pour down water on the earth in answer to its cry for rain. Then the earth can answer the parched cry of the grain, the grapes, and the olive trees for moisture and for dew—and the whole grand chorus shall sing together that ‘God sows!’ He has given all!

“At that time I will sow a crop of Israelites and raise them for myself! I will pity those who are ‘not pitied, and I will say to those who are ‘not my people,’ ‘Now you are my people’; and they will reply, ‘You are our God!’ ”  (Hosea 2:19—23  TLB)

1.  The manner of God’s betrothal

What exactly is a betrothal?  Literally is means “to woo a virgin.”  Or, we may say betrothal is the act of courtship.  This is what God said He would do to Israel:  He would court her.  He would, in time, win Israel for Himself.  This is God’s solemn promise to Israel that in the future she would be betrothed to Him forever.  In that day, Israel will never again be estranged from God, as in Old Testament times.

How will God do this?   This chapter of Hosea describes God’s technique for “wooing” Israel.

In righteousness

God would bind Himself to Israel in complete righteousness.   His betrothal to Israel will be based on His perfect character and Israel’s real need.  What is the thing that Israel needs most?  She needs to be righteous.  So what God is saying to Israel is that “in that day,” He would impute, or cover, her with His righteousness.

In justice

The betrothed, Israel, has been shown to be completely unworthy to be the Lord’s bride.  She had been shown to be guilty of heinous and awful sins, completely covered in a sin-debt she could never hope to repay.  How can she be made clean enough to be wed to God?  God will deal with Israel is complete justice.  Sin must be judged.  Sinners must be paid their wages:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 6:23  NIV)

But, through the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, God is able to deal with Israel (and, in fact, all sinners) in a perfectly just way:

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.  (1 John 2:2  NIV)

He is the one who took God’s wrath against our sins upon himself and brought us into fellowship with God; and he is the forgiveness for our sins, and not only ours but all the world’s.  (1 John 2:2  TLB)

Sin and guilt must be judged and they have been judged in Jesus Christ.  God’s eternal Son, in seeking to bind lost humanity to God the Father, took on its nature, bore its sin, and shed His Blood to cleanse us; to make it fit to be the betrothed.

In lovingkindness

This word has reference to the aspect of God’s covenant-keeping nature.  His love for Israel will be manifested in His faithfulness to His Word or promise concerning her.  This idea is expressed over 20 times throughout the Psalms.  God promised some very specific things to Israel—things that have not come to pass yet—and His nature guarantees that those promises will be fulfilled.

In mercy

The word used here is ruhamah, or “compassion.”  And God’s compassion for Israel is manifold!   It is multifaceted.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one pall things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.  (Ephesians 1:7—10  NKJV)

The mercy or the compassion of God is a strong motivational force that beckons us to completely yield ourselves to Christ.  When you understand all that God did for you in Christ, don’t you want to love Him back?  Isn’t that enough to compel you to live for Him?

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  (Romans 12:1, 2  NKJV)

In faithfulness

Finally, this proposed marriage will be made by God in total faithfulness.  God’s faithfulness to Israel is what is in view here, but faithfulness is a two-way street.  In the Old Testament, God had always been faithful to Israel but that faithfulness was not returned.  Therefore, there was a necessary separation between Israel and God.  However, in that great future day of the reconciliation of all things, a brand new relationship will be established by God; that separation will come to an end and Israel will be faithful to God for the first time.

When the people of Israel have finally received all that God has for them, they will finally know God and will finally be faithful to Him.  This new relationship was on Jesus’ mind in the Garden as He prayed to His Father:

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.  (John 17:3  NKJV)

The simple fact is, the ability to “know God” is a gift from God.  This gift is given to us as much as it will be given to Israel in that future day.

2.  The purpose of the betrothal

The purpose of this betrothal is obvious:  eternal union with God

That Israel may really know God

Israel certainly doesn’t know God today.  As a nation, she is so secular she can’t get too much farther away from Him!  But when their sin problem is finally taken care of, they will gain eternal perspective; they will finally see God for Who He really is and of course they will see Jesus Christ as their Messiah.

This kind of knowledge of God is not head knowledge, but rather heart knowledge.  It is this heart knowledge that results in salvation.

The day will come, says the Lord, when I will make a new contract with the people of Israel and Judah. It won’t be like the one I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a contract they broke, forcing me to reject them, says the Lord.  But this is the new contract I will make with them: I will inscribe my laws upon their hearts, so that they shall want to honor me; then they shall truly be my people and I will be their God.  At that time it will no longer be necessary to admonish one another to know the Lord. For everyone, both great and small, shall really know me then, says the Lord, and I will forgive and forget their sins.  (Jeremiah 31:31—34  TLB)

But this “change of heart” is not something Israel will be able to do for herself.  God will do it; He will give her a new heart.

I will give them hearts that respond to me. They shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with great joy.  (Jeremiah 24:7  TLB)

This is something every sinner can attest to:  God has given them a new heart, one that beats after Him.  It was a desire of David’s too, as he expressed it in Psalm 51:

Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with clean thoughts and right desires.  (Psalm 51:10  TLB)

Israel will confess God

Verse 23 makes it clear:

You are our God!

Verses 22 and 23 constitute a play on words that doesn’t come across in the English translations of our Bible.  The play on words has to do with Gomer’s children, a son called Jezreel, a daughter Lo-Ruhamah and another son Lo-Ammi.  God will not only bring the family back together again (regather Israel), but they cease to be “Lo-Ruhamah,” the pitiless daughter of a harlot.  God will show them mercy.  In our day today, Israel is really “Lo-ammi,” they are “not God’s people.”  But in that future day, God will finally declare that “they are my people” and they will say in all earnestness, “You are our God.”  This isn’t happening yet.  It will happen in the future.  This is an exciting prophecy for the Millennium.

Israel will be partners with God

This is something to stop and ponder for a moment.  According to Genesis, a wife is to be a husband’s helper; she is to bring into a marriage something her husband lacks.  She becomes his partner in life.  So it will be with Israel.  When she is finally united to her Lord, she will become His partner in the Kingdom.  Again, this finds its fulfillment during the Millennium when the Jews become the great evangelists, taking the Gospel of the Kingdom all over the world.

But consider how this applies to believers today.  Today we are co-workers with Christ.

We are only God’s coworkers.  (1 Corinthians 3:9a  TLB)

We, who have become part of God’s family, have a responsibility today to work with Christ in building His Church; it is our responsibility to work to extend the Kingdom in the here and now through witnessing and sharing the Gospel with the lost.  If you are in God’s family, then “the family business” ought to be yours.

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