Spiritual Adultery (Hosea)
SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #1
"Spiritual Adultery (Hosea)"
April 6, 2013
In the first three chapters (and the entire book) of Hosea there is a message that moves from one position to another. Here the underlying idea or theme is between judgment and salvation. The experience of Hosea’s marriage to Gomer which included heartbreak caused by Gomer’s unfaithfulness and then followed by the joy of their renewed relationship, provide the framework for the message.
First we have the symbolism of Hosea’s family (1:2-2:1). The major themes of the prophecy are presented in this opening section. Israel unfaithful to God is followed by consequential judgment. After judgment we learn of reconciliation between God and His people. These themes are introduced within the context of God’s command to Hosea to marry and to have children. There is a difference of opinion among Bible students as to whether God told Hosea to marry an adulterous woman or to marry Gomer before she became unfaithful. As with Israel, when the Lord took her as His bride who later became unfaithful (in figurative language), so it was with Hosea and Gomer.
At the beginning of Hosea’s prophetic ministry God told him to marry, which he did. The marriage became a disaster, characterized by infidelity on Gomer’s part. Here was a picture of Israel’s unfaithfulness to the Lord (cf. 2:2–23). The heartbreak of Hosea mirrored God’s agony caused by His people’s infidelity to Himself. The command: “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry” (1:2) can be understood to mean that Gomer came from a family who became debased through sensual indulgence and passed on this degeneracy from one generation to the next. The next phrase gives the reason. It was because Israel committed harlotry. But how did she do it? It was “by departing from the Lord.” Israel was His bride, His wife, and she left Him for another.
Into the marriage between Hosea and Gomer there came three children. The names of each were reminders of the broken relationship between Israel and God. Their names pointed to future judgment and restoration. Each section of the letter concerning the children (vv. 3b–5, 6–7, 8–9) contains the birth notice (vv. 3b, 6a, 8), God’s instruction concerning the names of the children (vv. 4a, 6b, 9a), and an explanation of the meaning of the names (vv. 4b–5, 6b, 9b). God’s words (v. 7) are distinctively characteristic in that they describe the announcement of judgment (v. 6).
Jezreel was the name given by God for the first child. Jezreel is associated with past and future events at the geographical place called Jezreel. This was the site where Jehu ruthlessly massacred the house of Ahab (1:4). The future judgment is at the same place – Jezreel – and is the scene of Israel’s military demise which is the meaning of “the breaking of the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel” the site of Jehu’s sin. Jehu’s dynasty was cut off forever by the downfall of the Northern kingdom (1:5).
The second child received the name Lo-Ruhamah meaning “she is not loved.” Her name indicated that the Lord’s love would be cut off for a time because of Israel’s harlotry – the worship of false gods. The term “Ruhamah,” from the verb rāḥam, describes tender feelings of compassion. At Sinai the Lord described Himself as “the compassionate … God” (’ēl raḥûm) who is willing to forgive iniquity (Ex. 34:6). However, despite His forgiving character, times come when He “will by no means clear the guilty” (Ex. 34:7, KJV). God would much rather cleanse from sin if permitted, but Israel refused and so the time had come for the separation of the Northern Kingdom from God.
In contrast to Israel of the north, the light of God’s grace and grace would shine through the gloom of the impending judgment of the ten northern tribes to Judah. Judah, the Southern Kingdom, in contrast, would receive and experience the Lord’s love. This love was demonstrated when He delivered Judah from the invading Assyrians, not to be accomplished through human military might (symbolized by the bow and sword), but by the Lord’s intervention. This promise was fulfilled when God supernaturally annihilated 185,000 soldiers in the powerful Assyrian army in one night ending its campaign against Judah (see 2 Kings 19:32–36).
The third child, a son, was named Lo-Ammi (Hos 1:8-9), which means “not My people.” The relationship between God and His people was to be severed. The last clause of Hosea 1:9 (I am not your God) is literally, “I [am] not I AM to you.” This statement alludes to Christ’s words to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you” (Ex 3:14). “I AM,” points to God as the covenant Lord who watches over and delivers His people (cf. Ex 3:16–17). And so now, through the name of Lo-Ammi, the Lord announced that Israel would no longer experience His special saving and protecting presence.
In the next section the symbolism is reversed (1:10–2:1). In this shift of tone the Lord declared that the judgment and its effects would be reversed someday. He promised a time of blessings and by restoration of the relationship and national unity.
Despite the loss of the Northern kingdom, Israel will again be like the seashore sand in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (Hos 1:19; compare with Gen 22:17; 32:12). Where Israel heard the words “not My people” (Hos 1:9) they will be called “My people” sons of the living God. The sonship reference points to restoration of the relationship, pictured under the figure of a family setting because of God’s mercy (2:1–5).
But judgment will return. The scene is restoration through judgment, first threatened then initiated, followed by reconciliation and restoration through renewed love and blessings (Hos 2:2-23).
Moving to the next scene we view the restoration of Hosea’s marriage (chapter 3). The Lord told Hosea to demonstrate his love to his adulterous wife once more. This serves as an object lesson of God’s unconditional love for Israel in spite of her unfaithfulness. Instead of responding favorably to her husband, the Lord, she was turning to other gods again and loving the sacred raisin cakes, delicacies used in feasts associated with Baal worship (3:1).
Hosea responded obediently to the Lord’s command (cf. 1:3). He bought his wife Gomer back for a substantial price. The value amounted to 30 shekels, the price of a slave (cf. Ex. 21:32). (As an aside, Jesus was sold for the price of a slave (see Zech 11:12 and Matt 27:1-10).
Not unlike Hosea’s purchase Jesus redeemed His bride, but not with 30 pieces of silver. The purchase of this redemption was with His life. However, like Israel in the past, she took the Lord’s gifts for granted and proudly turned away from Him. In the end she was won back but not without cost. Gomer lost her children. This was because they were “the children of harlotry” (Hos 2:4). So it was with the false religious system of the middle ages symbolized by the figure Jezebel, in the church of Thyratira, and her children which are to be destroyed (Rev 2:22). This is in figurative language. Her children are her false doctrines generated through her prostitution. The offspring were/are conceived in her carnal mind. These children come from the apostate powers of the union of church and state as outlined in Daniel and Revelation (see GC 54; 7BC 979). The Lord cannot adopt these doctrines. They are not His offspring. His doctrines are the truths that are found in Jesus. The professed Christian world has adopted this child of apostasy, refusing to obey God.
Let’s move on, closer to home. In this week’s lesson for Monday, referring to the experience of Gomer, the following question is asked, “In what ways could we, as Seventh-day Adventists, be in danger of doing the same thing in principle?” Another question might be asked: “Has God’s gifts and blessings been turned from Jesus and given to cherished idols” as in the days of Hosea?
Rev 3:14-20 may present some answers. Here we learn of the entreaty, the counsel, the heartbreak of the Lord over the sins of Laodicea. Jesus was/is heartsick for His love spurned by Laodicea. His heart breaks with sorrow. He is sick to His stomach. A literal translation of Rev 3:16 describes His experience. This last part of the verse can be translated “you make Me so sick I am about to vomit.” “I am so sick I am about to (mello) throw up (emeo, cf. Eng., “emetic”).
Consider the following: When Jesus was on earth “The cup of suffering was placed in His hand, as if He were the guilty one, and he drained it to the dregs.” However, His suffering did not stop then. The quotation continues: “He bore the sin of the world to the bitter end. And yet men continue to sin, and Christ continues to feel the consequences of their sin as if he Himself were the guilty one.” (13MR 369). So, what is it that will bring healing to His heart? Will the continual feeling of the consequences of our sins lead us to repentance (Rev 3:19)? Or will it take hard times as those in the days of Hosea and Israel? Repentance is brought about by God’s judgments, by conviction through the application of the law to the conscience, or by the goodness of God, all of which are outlined in the book of Hosea.
Not unlike Hosea, Jesus seeks, knocks, and asks us to open the door of our hearts (Rev 3:20). Is there any hope for us? Yes! He will cover us with the wedding gown of His righteousness as we respond in faith to His counsel (verse 18). As Hosea finally succeeded in wooing Gomer back to himself, so it will be with Jesus and Laodicea. There is no eighth church. Laodicea is the seventh and the last church. The message of 1888 remains the plea of Jesus to us to accept his invitation to receive His righteousness today just as it was in 1895:
"The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders [E.J.] Waggoner and [A. T.] Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God.
Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family." Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92
Will you accept His invitation today?