“And the LORD said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.’” (Hosea 3:1)
Hosea was a prophet before the Babylonian exile, living between the reigns of Uzziah and Hezekiah. His prophecies mostly revolve around the theme of Israel’s broken relationship with God and how judgement was coming as a result. But intermixed with these warnings of doom was a message of hope, as well. God still loved His people and would not be angry with them forever. In fact, He loved them so much that He was willing to do anything to get them back. It was fitting that Hosea preached this message, as he had firsthand experience of what it was like to love an unfaithful person. Through his relationship with his wife, God illustrated His own relationship with Israel.
In the first chapter of Hosea, we see an interesting scenario. God instructs Hosea to marry a prostitute and have children with her, explaining that this would be an example of Israel. Hosea did just that, marrying a prostitute named Gomer and having three children with her, all of whom were given allegorical names like No Mercy and Not My People. But sometime after giving birth to her children, Gomer must have grown weary of Hosea. We don’t know exactly what happened, but in chapter 3, God tells Hosea to love an adulteress, and in the next verse Hosea pays a significant price to get his wife back. At some point, Gomer left her husband and returned to her prostitution. But Hosea still loved her, enough to pay for her to be his again.
And this, according to God, was a picture of His relationship with Israel. He loved them so much, just as a husband loves his wife. But Israel did not return that love. They were rebellious and unfaithful, chasing after other gods and giving their love away to everything except God. Anyone would agree that God would have been quite justified in giving up Israel in disgust. But that was not what He chose to do. “How can I give you up, O Ephraim?” He cried. “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 warm and tender.” (Hosea 11:8) He would not give them up; far from it! He would do everything to get them back—eventually giving His own Son to die for not only the sins of Israel but also of the entire world. No price was too high for redeeming His people. Just as Hosea paid for his wife, so God would win Israel back. Such a love can never be quenched.