An Ugly Picture of a Beautiful Thing (Hosea 3:1)

Hosea 3:1 – 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.”

In normal marriage relationships, nothing is more devastating than the betrayal of a spouse. Husbands and wives who have experienced the pain, fear, and fury that comes with the knowledge that their beloved has been with another have gone through some of the most intense emotional pain humanly possible. Thus, it is fascinating that God would use this image so vividly in the book of Hosea.

Back in chapter 1, God commanded Hosea to marry a woman who would not be faithful. In chapter 2, God drew the parallel for the nation of Israel, depicting himself as the husband of an unfaithful wife. Now, in chapter 3, God sends Hosea to bring his wayward bride back home, just as God himself was planning to bring wayward Israel home to himself in spite of their betrayal of him.

The thing that we do not want to miss in this passage is the intensity of emotion that is tied to it. People really experience the emotional distress that comes when a spouse cheats on them. It is an intense, brutal pain. God knew that when he chose this language to describe our sin before him. For the people of God to willfully live lives of disobedience to him is for them to commit adultery against him. For those who name Jesus as Lord, but who treasure the world and its toys and entertainments above him, they are as a wayward spouse meeting her lover. And, let’s remember, lest Hollywood take over and destroy our understanding of this concept, that the woman is not an abused spouse running from an unloving husband to the arms of a gentle and caring man; but she who is depicted here is leaving the most loving, gentle, perfect spouse possible for a lowlife, abusive, selfish, and evil companion.

Yes, this is an ugly thought. But God chose an ugly illustration on purpose. He wants us to recognize our seeking of our pleasures apart from him and his glory as spiritual adulteries. When we desire the creation above its Creator, we commit a grievous sin. We must recognize this, otherwise we will fail to recognize the counterpoint to the ugliness.

What could possibly be beautiful in this passage? The answer is grace. God was not only telling Hosea of the adultery of Israel against him, he was commanding Hosea to let the nation know that he was going to bring her back. He was going to be gracious to Israel, even though Israel as a people had wronged him to the greatest level possible. Even though they had betrayed him ultimately, he would offer them love instead of the judgment they deserved. And God does the very same thing for us today. Though we have sinned against him greatly, even after many of us took his name by becoming believers in Christ, God is gracious to forgive us our sins and purify us from unrighteousness. The ugliness of what we have done to our God, the faithful spouse, serves to magnify the beauty and incredible nature of his grace toward us. No, we do not sin intentionally that grace may look more gracious, but we must recognize that our sin and its darkness magnifies Gods’ grace.

Dear Lord, I recognize through this passage that my sin is a very ugly thing indeed. You have been perfect to me, and I have treated you as a whoring wife. I am so sorry, Lord, for all of the ways that I have allowed my heart to seek this world and its vanities above you. I seek your grace, and I ask your forgiveness in Christ. I thank you that you have already declared that your grace is available for all who come to Jesus in faith and repentance. I thank you that your grace looks even more gracious in contrast to my past foolishness and sinfulness. I now pray that I will live to magnify your grace, not through sinning more that grace may abound, but by living in faithful covenant obedience to you for the sake of the glory of your name.