Divorce and Reconciliation

Posted: April 13, 2017 in Hosea, Uncategorized

Hosea 1:1-2:13, “Divorce and Reconciliation”

God hates divorce – this we know from passages like Malachi 2:16, in which God explicitly says so in His condemnation of the various sins of Israel.  God’s holy intent for marriage is for a man and woman to be united as one (spiritually, physically, and emotionally) as they serve the Lord and one another in love.  God’s heart for marriage is always for it to be an eternal covenant commitment.  Even the worst of situations have hope for reconciliation.

With that in mind, what do we do with Scriptures such as Hosea 1-2, in which God Himself engages in divorce?  God had taken Israel to Himself as His wife, yet He casts her away, declaring even her children to be unclean.  Is God a hypocrite?  Does He hold out one standard for us, and another for Himself?  Heaven forbid! 

The book of Hosea is not an easy read, but it is a vital one.  God called a prophet of Israel to walk through the same grief He Himself endured: marriage to an unfaithful wife.  And just as fornication is grounds for human divorce, so was it grounds for the divine divorce.  But even that is not the end.  As hard and prevalent as the various declarations of judgment might be in the book of Hosea, so are the declarations of God’s mercy and restoration.  Yes, He divorced His people, but He also promised to be reconciled with them.  God had made a covenant commitment to Israel, and not even Israel herself could render eternally null & void.  Eventually God will be restored to His people, because He promised He would.  God is always good to His word.

God’s covenants are always kept, because God is the one who makes them.  As New Testament Christians, we do not have a fear of being divorced from Christ, but we do have a covenant relationship with Him.  We are His bride, and Jesus our Bridegroom.  He knows us, woos us, calls us, loves us, forgives us, and more.  How can we know that He’ll do it unto the end?  Because He said He would, and He is always good to His word.

Hosea 1

  • Setting

1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.

  • The book begins with a list of names, which may seem a bit random to the casual reader, but it actually gives a great timeframe and context to the book.  Not much is said about the person of the prophet (other than his name and father), but that will quickly change within the first chapter.
  • The majority of kings listed are from the south (Judah), and they encompass a range of dates from 792-686BC.  It’s doubtful that Hosea’s prophetic ministry lasted the entirety of 90+ years; more than likely he began prophesying towards the end of Uzziah (740), and lasted until the beginning of Hezekiah (729) – giving a minimum time frame of 11 years, and likely much longer (up to 30).  “Jeroboam” is actually Jeroboam II, who reigned from 793-753. He was not the last of the kings of Israel, but he was followed in quick succession of kings who could not stand against the Assyrians who conquered the northern kingdom in 722BC.  As for Jeroboam II, he was actually a strong leader in Israel.  He was evil, continuing in the sins of the northern kings (2 Kings 14:24), but he was able to recover land for the kingdom, and God used him as an instrument to preserve the nation (2 Kings 14:26).  Israel would indeed fall, but not for several decades more.
    • So why bring a message of judgment through the prophet?  Because this was the perfect opportunity for repentance.  It’s one thing for a person to repent when he feels the hand of God heavy upon him; it’s another thing to do it when things are well.  After all, our successes & failures are not necessarily indications of God’s pleasure with our actions.  (Just ask Job!)  Evil people sometimes prosper & faithful people sometimes suffer.  The key is to be recognize our evil whenever it occurs.  Far better for us to see it and repent, rather than the consequences of our actions being the thing that makes us repent.
  • That brings us back to the prophet himself, Hosea.  His name means “Salvation,” and was initially the same name attributed to Joshua (Num 13:8), and thus is the same Hebrew root as Jesus (Ιησους ~ יְהוֹשׁוּעַ ~ Joshua).  God offered salvation to the northern people of Israel – but they needed to take the opportunity while they had the chance.  The prophet Amos had already preached to the north, and Isaiah was speaking the word of God to the south.  Hosea was the final prophet God gave to the northern kingdom prior to the Assyrian conquest.  If they didn’t heed God’s word at the moment, they would lose their opportunity to do so.
    • Some might think it ironic for a message of judgment to be delivered by a prophet whose name means “salvation.”  Actually, it makes all the sense in the world.  God offered salvation from judgment.  Judgment is the reality for us all, unless we receive the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.  His grace is readily available, but we must receive it.
  • The prophet’s family & the prophetic word (1:2-2:1)

2 When the LORD began to speak by Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea: “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry And children of harlotry, For the land has committed great harlotry By departing from the LORD.”

  • This seems like such an unthinkable command from God to Hosea, and without question, it’s shocking.  But what did God really say?  Scholars debate whether or not this was allegorical, if Gomer was simply an idolator (spiritual adulterer, like the nation of Israel), or if she was really sexually immoral, if she was really a prostitute.  Arguments abound on each view, with good scholars doing their best to be faithful to the text.  Technically, the word translated “harlotry” (זְנוּנִים ) means “fornication,” which could certainly imply pagan prostitution, but not necessarily.  It could simply refer to a person inclined to sexual immorality/promiscuity.  It is quite possible that Hosea’s wife was not a prostitute when he married her (though perhaps she had sexually permissive tendencies), but due to God’s word about her, Hosea knew where her tendencies would lead.  That makes the command perhaps a little less shocking, but no less difficult.  Hosea would marry this woman, knowing full well the heartache that would come…and yet he did it anyway.
    • Of course, that was the point.  When God betrothed Himself to Israel (Jer 2:2), He fully knew everything about the nation.  When He brought her out of Egypt to Mount Sinai, He knew would quickly fall into sin with the golden calf – He knew that they would frequently give themselves over to idolatry during the years of the judges – He knew they would reject Him as their only sovereign & ask for a human king, etc.  God knew everything about them & their future (just as He does with us)…and He still loved them.  He still took them to Himself, and gave them promises of a Messiah and everlasting kingdom.  God knew their sin, and loved them in spite of it.
    • It is no different with us.  As born-again believers, Jesus has taken us to Himself as His betrothed, and we await the glorious wedding feast of the Lamb.  And in the midst of all of that, our sins do not surprise Him.  He is not unprepared for our failures, as vast as they are.  Not that our sins are pleasing to Him, nor that we should feel free to engage in them (perish the thought!).  But they are not news to Him.  Jesus knew us when He called us, and He loved us enough to call us anyway.  How great is the love of God!
  • God spells all of this out for Hosea.  He doesn’t ask the prophet to do anything that He Himself has not already done.  Hosea would be taking a wife of fornication, just as God had with Israel.  They had committed spiritual adultery against Him with every idolatrous statue, pagan prayer, and pagan ritual.  The people of Israel (particularly the northern kingdom) had been nothing but consistent in their foul idolatry, stretching all the way back to the 1st northern king, Jeroboam I.  God had dealt with them for this long, and He had given them mercy upon mercy.  That mercy was about to run out.

3 So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. 4 Then the LORD said to him: “Call his name Jezreel, For in a little while I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, And bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 It shall come to pass in that day That I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”

  • All we know about Gomer is what is written of her here, and thus we don’t know much about her background.  Again, whether or not she had previously been a prostitute is unknown.  At this point, she is like any other Hebrew wife at the time, as she is given in marriage to her husband and begins to bear children.  Three of them will be seen & named in Chapter 1.
  • Child #1: the boy “Jezreel.”  Each of the names of the children are significant, though the second two are a bit easier to see.  Jezreel could possibly be translated “God sows,” though that wasn’t really the point.  Jezreel was already known as a name, used at a few different locations in the Bible.  One particular instance is significant here, as it was the hometown of Naboth, who was murdered by Ahab and Jezebel for his vineyard (1 Kings 21).  It was already a place of bloodshed due to the actions of idolatrous Israelites, and thus it was a fitting name for the first child of Hosea. 
  • Although Jehu was the Israelite king who later took vengeance upon the house of Ahab (including Jezebel), Jehu’s own reign and family was little better. Jeroboam II was actually the great-grandson of Jehu, and thus part of “the house” that God declared would be judged.  In fact, Jeroboam II was succeeded by his son Zechariah, who reigned for only six months before he was assassinated by Shallum (2 Kings 15:8-10).  Exactly as God had said, the bloodshed of Jezreel was avenged “on the house of Jehu.
  • That isn’t the only vengeance mentioned.  Not only would the lineage of Jehu come to an end, so would “the kingdom of the house of Israel.”  At this point in history, the northern kingdom was better known as Samaria, and the promise of God is that He would destroy them.  Not just let them be defeated in battle – not merely put down for a while – ended, destroyed.  God promised to “break the bow of Israel.”  This would be a total destruction.  And it was!  When the Assyrians came in, they forever changed the makeup of the northern kingdom.  This was different from the Babylonians in the south, where the cultural identity of the Jews remained & was able to survive for 70 years.  In the north, the Assyrians truly destroyed them, literally breeding out their Israelite heritage.  The northern tribes had always been prone to idolatry & intermarriage, and the Assyrians made it even more so.  Those they didn’t kill or take captive, they bred – and from that point on, the Samaritans were known as a mixed race, defiled in the eyes of their Jewish brethren.
    • The good news is that even this “end” is not permanent.  Granted, it has been permanent for the last 2700+ years, but it won’t be this way in eternity.  When God removes the blindness from Israel and they finally see Jesus as their Messiah, there will be representatives from all the tribes of Israel.  Revelation 7 shows how 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes are sealed for protection during the Great Tribulation, and these specific northern tribes are named among them.  This is the grace of God!
    • Why would God do such a thing?  Why would He show such mercy?  Because He promised He would.  God made a covenant with Abraham, Moses, and David – and He will see it through to completion.  Where we are unfaithful, God is faithful…every single time!
  • Of course, there would be judgment along the way.  This is seen in the other children of Hosea…

6 And she conceived again and bore a daughter. Then God said to him: “Call her name Lo-Ruhamah, For I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, But I will utterly take them away. 7 Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah, Will save them by the LORD their God, And will not save them by bow, Nor by sword or battle, By horses or horsemen.”

  • Child #2: “Lo-Ruhamah.” (לֹא רֻחָמָה )  The name is actually translated in our text: “No mercy,” or “Not shown mercy/compassion.”  (This doesn’t exactly head the top of baby name lists!)  It is a harsh name for a child, but appropriate for the people of God.  God had repeatedly shown mercy to Israel, long before they ever resided in the Promised Land.  Israel had rebelled against God even before they left Egypt, having complained against Moses when Pharaoh became harsher with his demands. (Exo 5:21)  They grumbled against God in the wilderness, worshipped a golden calf at the base of Mount Sinai, turned away at the edge of the Promised Land in fear, refused to destroy all of the Canaanites in the land, worshipped the false gods that remained, and more.  At the very first of those sins, God had the right to wipe the Hebrew nation to the dust & start all over again (and in fact, offered to do so with Moses!), yet He didn’t.  He showed mercy. Time & time again, God was merciful to His people.  He cared for them as a mother cares for her baby (implied by the Hebrew word) – He had compassion on them just as would be expected from a Heavenly Father.
  • No more.  That time had passed, and they lost their opportunity for the compassions of God.  He had saved them from many prior enemies, but He would not save them from the future Assyrian empire.  There would be no miraculous deliverance from Sennacherib, as there was with Judah. (2 Kings 19)  Israel/Samaria would face this battle on their own, because they had refused the mercies of God.
    • There comes a time for everyone when the decisions we’ve made about Jesus are final.  The moment we die, it is too late to change our minds regarding God’s offer of salvation.  None of us know when that will be, so it’s not something to push off until later.  One day all of us will look into the eyes of the Son of God, and see one of two things: mercy, or no-mercy.  If we want His mercy, now is the time to receive it!

8 Now when she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. 9 Then God said: “Call his name Lo-Ammi, For you are not My people, And I will not be your God.

  • Child #3: the boy “Lo-Ammi.”  The names at the Hosea house don’t get any better as time goes along.  This isn’t God punishing Hosea or his children; God simply chose to use this family as a picture of His relationship with Israel.  In the past, they had been His people.  In fact, that was their primary identity.  The covenant promise God had made with the Hebrews was that when they obeyed Him, it would be a witness to the rest of the world that they were a people called by the name of the Lord. (Dt 28:10)  They were supposed to be God’s representatives on the earth…that was His express desire for them.  No longer.  Now they were cut off.  Other nations had their own national gods (false as they were), but the one nation upon the earth that had a real relationship with the real God no longer had it.  God had cast them off, and they were left alone.
  • The last phrase in verse 9 is truly tragic, especially as seen in the Hebrew.  Note that many English translations italicize the word “God,” showing that it is assumed by the translators, to help make sense of the text; it is not in the original Hebrew text itself.  A more literal rendering would be: “And I [am] not I AM to you.”  The same covenant name that God gave Himself when talking to Moses at the burning bush is the word used here to Israel through Hosea.  They had broken their covenant with God so badly that God removed from them the right to use His covenant name.  Keep in mind, it is the covenant God (YHWH) speaking to Hosea, and it is the covenant relationship of marriage which is the consistent picture between God & Israel.  But that covenant has been defiled, despised by Israel.  Now it is seen as invalid, and God removes His covenant name from them.
    • Thankfully, this is not forever, as will be seen even in the next several verses.  But it goes to underscore the seriousness of sin.  How often can we sin against our God and still call ourselves His people?  How many times can to engage in the same vile behavior & still claim to be born of His Spirit?  Again, the good news is that God promises true cleansing forgiveness to everyone who asks in faith through Jesus.  But it is never something we ought to take for granted!  The moment our hearts become calloused to sin is the moment we ought to tremble.  At that point we are no longer acting like the people of God.
  • Restoration!

10 “Yet the number of the children of Israel Shall be as the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God.’

  • Would the people be destroyed?  Yes.  Would God bring an end to them?  Yes.  Were there be many years under which they would have no mercy from God, nor be His people?  Yes.  But it wouldn’t last forever.  Eventually, they will be restored.  One day they will be blessed again in relationship with God.  Their numbers would grow, their familial relationship with God restored.
  • Why?  Because God said He would!  This was the express promise He made to Abraham.  Genesis 22:16–17, "(16) and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son—(17) blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies." Abraham had shown his faith in the God who can raise people from the dead, and God declared His blessing upon Abraham, swearing upon His own self (i.e. no higher authority) that God would forever bless His descendants.  How would that happen if God allowed the nations of the world to wipe them out?  Thus God wouldn’t ever let that happen.  Yes, He would discipline them – yes, He would allow them to face the full consequences of their sin – but He would always leave a remnant.  There would always be representatives of all 12 tribes from which God could rebuild His nation.  God swore to do it, and so He will.
    • How many times in the Bible have we seen it affirmed that God keeps His word?  Too many to count!  That being the case, why is it so difficult for us to take Him at His word?  We don’t really believe He is as compassionate as He says He is, so we hold back our confessions.  We don’t really believe He will work the way He says He will, so we hold back our prayers.  We don’t really believe that He will provide the way He says He will provide, so we hold back our trust.  Over & over again, we find excuses to doubt His promises, when that is one thing we have absolutely no reason to do.  God.Keeps.His.Word.  Believe it!  (And then act upon it!)
  • When will this restoration take place?  At the end of the age.  Although it is true that the nation of Israel has been restored, it cannot yet be said that the modern Israeli people are the “sons of the Living God.”  Why?  Because they do not yet believe in Jesus as Messiah.  But they will!  And when they do, not only will they be regrown as a people, but the entire Davidic kingdom will be reunited and restored.  Vs. 11…

11 Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel Shall be gathered together, And appoint for themselves one head; And they shall come up out of the land, For great will be the day of Jezreel! 2:1 Say to your brethren, ‘My people,’ And to your sisters, ‘Mercy is shown.’

  • If the chapter break seems unusually placed, it is.  The Hebrew chapter actually broke back with verse 10.  The English versions seem to follow the tradition of the Latin Vulgate, which has the same chapter break.  Remember that chapter breaks & verse numbers are not inspired – they are just helpful traditional editorial marks.
  • The whole point here is the promise of full restoration.  There is a regathered people, a reunited monarchial kingdom, and a reversal of all the things that were associated with the names of the three children of Hosea.  They are sown in the land (Jezreel), they are God’s people (Lo-Ammi), and they receive the compassions & mercies of God (Lo-Ruhammah).
  • BTW – some scholars have a difficult time understanding how this verse is applied in real-time, as they don’t see any time in history where the nation of Israel had “for themselves one head” in reunification.  The reason why is simple: it hasn’t happened yet!  The only way this promise can be true is if the premillennial viewpoint is true and the Lord Jesus sets up a literal Davidic kingdom when He returns to earth.  And He will.  This is one reason CC Tyler holds to a premillennial eschatology: it takes the Bible at its word for what it says.

One aspect that quickly becomes plain about the book of Hosea is how it will cycle back & forth between judgment & mercy.  Already, we’ve seen one such cycle.  God set up Hosea’s family as a picture for His judgment upon Israel, but He also promised to one day reverse those things and restore Israel to Himself.  This same cycle will be seen again through the rest of Chapter 2, with the focus being primarily on Hosea’s promiscuous wife, Gomer.

  • God divorces Israel (2:2-13)

2 “Bring charges against your mother, bring charges; For she is not My wife, nor am I her Husband! Let her put away her harlotries from her sight, And her adulteries from between her breasts; 3 Lest I strip her naked And expose her, as in the day she was born, And make her like a wilderness, And set her like a dry land, And slay her with thirst. 4 “I will not have mercy on her children, For they are the children of harlotry. 5 For their mother has played the harlot; She who conceived them has behaved shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, Who give me my bread and my water, My wool and my linen, My oil and my drink.’

  • Although the word “divorce” is never used by God, the concept certainly is.  He declares Israel no longer to be His “wife,” and He would no longer be “her Husband.”  God had legal “charges” to bring against her – firm grounds for divorce.  She had acted out in fornication, and thus despised the marriage covenant between her & God, and thus God agreed with her hardened heart and put her out.
    • Again, this is never God’s desire.  His will for marriage is eternal unity – but sometimes hardened hearts get in the way.  Jesus affirmed that God allowed Moses to give regulations regarding divorce (specifying fornication/adultery as a specific grounds for it), but this was a concession; not a command. (Mt 19:8-9)  The ideal for every marriage, even (and especially!) those in crisis, is reconciliation.  It may take time – it surely requires humility and repentance – it definitely takes two people submitted to God, allowing Him to do His work in their lives…but it is possible.  This is something we need to trust Him for.
    • Keep in mind that even this divorce of God’s is not permanent.  Eventually He promised to be reconciled with Israel, though it would take much time.  God had given Israel innumerable opportunities not to reach this point, but this is what they chose to do.  God simply confirmed it with His command.  Thankfully, He also confirmed His commitment to His covenant promises.  We’ve already read His word – God will be restored to Israel.
  • What had happened to bring God to this point?  Many “harlotries” and “adulteries.”  Israel had repeatedly been spiritually unfaithful.  Every time they worshipped false idols, they committed adultery against their covenant God.  Every time they compromised true worship, they engaged in spiritual prostitution and fornication. 
    • If it sounds crude and shocking, it’s meant to.  We don’t often think as false religion being equivalent to sexual perversion, but God does.  That’s how He sees it.  When people who are called by His name give their worship to false things, or pervert the true religion He gave us, then it’s like His people engaging in prostitution or pornography.  It is that much of a violation to Him.
    • Thus, be careful not to do it!  May we be so enamored with our Lord Jesus that we never even consider giving our worship to anyone/anything else.  It’s so easy for us to do.  We worship our hobbies, our wealth, our sports, our children – all sorts of things.  Keep in mind that none of those things are bad in the slightest.  The problem comes when we give them priority over the Lord.  When those things start mattering more than our relationship with Jesus, then we’re walking the road to idolatry…we’re walking closer to spiritual prostitution.  Be careful!  Be mindful!  Enjoy those things to their fullest, but enjoy Jesus first & enjoy Him more.
  • As for Israel, she had acted like a harlot, so God promised to treat her like one.  All of these actions (stripping her naked, etc.) sound extremely harsh, but they were the cultural norms for how wives caught in adultery were treated.  They were stripped of the clothes given them by their husbands, and cast out into the street without provision.  In Israel’s case, she already wasn’t looking to God to provide for her – she went after her “lovers,” the idols for her provision of food, water, clothing, oil, and more.  The more she pursued them, the more difficulty she would have doing it.  Vs. 6…

6 “Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, And wall her in, So that she cannot find her paths. 7 She will chase her lovers, But not overtake them; Yes, she will seek them, but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, For then it was better for me than now.’ 8 For she did not know That I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, And multiplied her silver and gold— Which they prepared for Baal.

  • God may have declared His divorce upon Israel, but He wasn’t going to make it easy for her to go.  Remember that His desire is reconciliation.  He wanted Israel to turn back to Him in faith and love.  Thus, she was free to go, but God was going to “hedge” her in.  He’d do what was necessary to bring her to her senses (like the prodigal son), so that she would come back to Him in faith.
  • Notice the perfect balance of the sovereignty of God and the freewill He gave to Israel.  The nation made its own choices, first going after “her lovers,” and eventually choosing to seek the Lord – but it was God who framed her circumstances to bring her to that point.  It was as if Israel was in a maze, and though she freely chose which direction to turn, God was the one who guided her to His intended destination.
    • Although every analogy breaks down, this seems to be the way He works with us.  Does the Bible affirm God’s sovereignty?  Absolutely.  There is nothing that happens over which God does not reign and grant permission.  Yet is God the author of sin?  Absolutely not!  Those are actions that we freely choose of our own.  Does the Bible affirm that God has chosen us from before the foundation of the world?  Yes. (Eph 1:4)  But the Bible also affirms that we are to exercise our faith in coming to God, believing upon Jesus to be saved. (John 3:16)  How can these things be reconciled?  There is much that is mystery, but perhaps some of the answer is illustrated here in Hosea.  We make our choices, but God chose our circumstances to bring us to the point where we freely choose what He has chosen.  However it works, praise God that it does!
  • What God desired for Israel was that she would come to a point that she realized how good she had it with God.  She would understand that it was YHWH God who provided for her, and not the false Baals.  Sadly, Israel (like us) needed to learn the hard way, which is why God goes on to speak of His discipline towards the nation. …

9 “Therefore I will return and take away My grain in its time And My new wine in its season, And will take back My wool and My linen, Given to cover her nakedness. 10 Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, And no one shall deliver her from My hand. 11 I will also cause all her mirth to cease, Her feast days, Her New Moons, Her Sabbaths— All her appointed feasts.

  • All of the things that God had promised – all of the things for which Israel had sought from her false gods – those things God would take back.  The land would no longer be blessed, yielding its fruit to the people.  This was exactly what God promised would happen if Israel forsook the covenant, and thus God (again) was good to His word.  Deuteronomy 28:18–20, "(18) “Cursed shall be the fruit of your body and the produce of your land, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. (19) “Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. (20) “The LORD will send on you cursing, confusion, and rebuke in all that you set your hand to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, because of the wickedness of your doings in which you have forsaken Me."  This was true of both the northern and southern kingdoms.  When God finally allowed them to experience the consequence of their sins, they found they were cursed in every respect.  Nothing they could do was able to deliver them out of the hands of their enemies.
    • Of course, if they had only kept themselves in the hand of God, none of this would have been necessary!
  • Keep in mind, God did not want these things to happen, but they were the natural result of Israel’s sin.  What else could happen when they sinned against God in such a way?  How else was God supposed to act?  He had shown mercy repeatedly, but eventually He would have to show His judgment.  A consequence that is never given is just an empty threat, and the word is void.  Know this: whether for our benefit or not, God’s word will never return void!  What God said, He will do…including all of His promises of discipline and wrath.
  • Given that God judged Israel for all of their spiritual adultery (idolatry), why was it that God declared what He did in vs. 11?  Why cause all of the prescribed Hebrew feasts and celebrations to “cease”?  Because what they did, they did in vain.  They had already perverted the law & covenant of God – they had defiled themselves with false idols.  Why celebrate their rest in God (the Sabbath), if they looked to pagan idols for salvation?  Why celebrate the harvests with YHWH if they were turning to the Baals for their provision?  God didn’t want (or need) their polluted worship.  All of their feasts had turned to mere ritual, with no true sincerity.
    • The exact same thing can happen with Christian traditions.  The more that is mixed in from the world, the more a true act of remembrance can be diluted.  Even when the words are expressly Biblical, if the heart is not there, then it’s just a bunch of words.  Purity and sincerity are key…they are critical to true worship.

12 “And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, Of which she has said, ‘These are my wages that my lovers have given me.’ So I will make them a forest, And the beasts of the field shall eat them. 13 I will punish her For the days of the Baals to which she burned incense. She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, And went after her lovers; But Me she forgot,” says the LORD.

  • If Israel trusted the Baals, then God allowed Israel to be turned over to them – to be treated like all the other pagan nations of the world were treated.  God would take away the blessings He already provided them in the past (“her vines and her fig trees”) because Israel had assumed that those were gifts from the Baals.  God had given them a home, so God would take it away.  What once had been a land flowing with milk & honey would now be a forest filled with creatures dangerous to the Israelites.  She had demonstrated that she was dedicated to the worship of the Baals, even dressing herself as pagan worshippers would dress.  So be it.  God would turn them over to their sin.
  • What had happened?  What was it that brought Israel to this point?  They “forgot” God.  This isn’t absent-mindedness or a lapse of memory – this is abandonment.  Contextually, to “forget” God is to purposefully turn away from Him.  Israel proved they no longer wanted to be in a relationship with God by virtue of the fact that she turned away from God, purposefully giving her attention to other loves.  God wasn’t merely “out of sight, out of mind,” (which is bad enough!) – He was shut out.  It’s no wonder God responded with His decree of divorce.  He was abandoned by a non-believer (1 Cor 7:15) who committed repeated adultery against Him.  God had every reason in the world to respond the way He did.
    • Don’t forget Jesus! Don’t turn back from Him!  The question of apostasy is one that is often debated among scholars, whether or not it is even truly possible for someone to lose his/her salvation.  I suggest to you that’s not really the point.  The point of apostasy is whether or not someone has turned his/her back on Jesus.  A person in that state has no assurance of salvation, irrespective of what theological bent you subscribe to.  It doesn’t matter what prayer was said in the past, what “decision card” was signed, or what creed was once affirmed.  If right here, right now, a person cannot affirm the gospel of Jesus Christ fully believing upon Him to be saved, then that person has zero assurance of salvation.  That is a person who has turned back – who has forgotten the Lord Jesus.
    • If that’s the case, what is that person to do?  Remember!  Speaking to the church of Ephesus (who seemed to be in danger of doing something similar), Jesus said: Revelation 2:5, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent."  Remember!  Remember the faith you once claimed to believe – remember the work of the Lord Jesus upon the cross & His resurrection from the grave – remember His glorious person as Almighty God.  And then, repent!  Turn back to Him, away from the sins of this life & the attractions of this world – turn back to Christ in true faith.  Whether it’s a recommitment back to Jesus, or a first-time commitment out of a previous false conversion is irrelevant.  Just commit yourself to the Lord Jesus & be sure that you’re saved!

 

The good news in all of this is that God would not forever allow Israel to be turned over to her sin.  There is a wonderful promise of restoration in the remainder of Chapter 2.  It may take thousands of years for Israel to arrive, but they will arrive.  God promised it, and it will happen.  How do we know?  Because His word never returns void.

Keep in mind that the primary reason we know God will fulfill His word to Israel is because He has already fulfilled His word regarding Jesus.  The Messiah has already come, even if Israel didn’t fully recognize Him when He came.  At the time, Israel was still being unfaithful, but Jesus wasn’t.  He did everything He set out to do, accomplishing not only our salvation at the cross, but also paying for the sins of Israel.  When Israel does come to faith & is saved, the reason it will be possible is because Jesus has already died for them at the cross & rose from the grave.  Our hope is their hope.  Our Messiah is their Messiah.  Praise God that one day they will know Him as we do!  May that day come soon!

In the meantime, keep trusting the promises of God.  What God has said, He will do.  He forgives as He says He forgives – He restores as He says He restores – and He loves as He says He loves.  Trust our Jesus to do the things He says He will do.

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