Our reading today comes from the third chapter of the book of Hosea.
 The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”
 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley.  Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.”
 For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or idol.  Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the Lord and to his blessings in the last days.
This is the word of the Lord.
With the book of Hosea, I think you would be well served if I just stood up here and read the whole thing to you. I’m not going to do that now, but it would be worth your time to read the whole book. It would probably take less than a half-hour. It’s only nine pages in my Bible.
Let me tell you why it would be worth reading tonight. James Montgomery Boice calls the book of Hosea the second greatest story in the Bible. The greatest story, of course is the one about Jesus—his incarnation, his life, death, burial, and resurrection, for us and for our salvation. Specifically, he calls the third chapter of Hosea “the greatest chapter in the Bible.” If Dr. Boice is right about Hosea, then it earns that superlative because of how it clearly illustrates God’s love for his people. It shows the love that motivates God to go to such great lengths to save them—to save us.
So what I want to do then, is to give a brief outline of the whole story where we find our passage, and then I’ll draw a few observations and applications.
First, the story. God calls Hosea to be a prophet around the eighth century before Christ, right before the Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrians. The book recounts Hosea’s own personal story in Chapters 1 through 3, and then Hosea applies the story to Israel in chapters 4 through 14. So at the beginning of the book, God calls Hosea to marry an adulterous woman—to marry a woman that he knows will be unfaithful to him. God calls Hosea to choose her and to love her and to be faithful to her. So he marries Gomer and they have three children, whom God instructs Hosea to name Jezreel, Not Loved and Not My People. Each time, God explains how this applies to Israel. They have sinned; he will send judgment. But that's not where the story ends; there is hope.
So Gomer does what Hosea has been told by God to expect—she runs away after other men. But he calls Hosea not to give up on her. He calls Hosea to allure her, to show kindness to her, to speak tenderly to her. And she follows him! We see then a renaming of the children when God says “I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not My Loved One,’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”
Then in our passage today the Lord sums up the promise: Hosea goes to the place where Gomer was being sold into slavery and buys her for a sum of money. He then calls her to live faithfully to him and promises to be faithful to her.
The remaining chapters detail God’s charges against Israel, the judgment he declares against them, and their continued lack of repentance—God’s love, their sin, God’s judgment. But Hosea ends in chapter 14 with a call to repentance and a promise of healing, of care, and of salvation for those who repent.
So now, back to our passage.
1. The first observation I would like to make is that God’s call to Hosea is to love Gomer as the LORD loves the Israelites. This marriage between Gomer and Hosea is designed specifically to demonstrate the kind of love that God has for his people. Even though they turn to other gods, even thought they have run away from him, even though they have been unfaithful, God loves his people. Likewise, Hosea is sent to redeem Gomer, to take her into his house and to live with her as husband and wife. This is how God loves his people; he is faithful even when they—even when we—are unfaithful. He makes atonement for our sins and calls us to repent of them and return to him.
Now specifically, he’s talking about Israel. I will return to that in a moment, but for now, I need to say that these things are ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and the community that are gathered around him in these last days. We can see a parallel in Paul’s discussion of marriage in Ephesians 5, where he writes, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” and “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”
So looking from this passage to Christ, we can see that this is how God loves us. He promises to be faithful. So Hosea's call to you in this verse. The Lord is faithful, and this is how he’s faithful: Jesus—God the Son, God the Word—died on the cross for you, for us, and was raised. In the Bible he calls you to trust him in this and believe this.
2. The second observation comes from verse 2: "So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley." I don’t know if this price was a large or small amount, but what this does demonstrate is that she had gotten herself into a very desperate situation. She was being sold as a slave, presumably because of some debt she had incurred because of her way of life. She was a slave; she was not free. And Hosea bought her.
Three things. First, the people of Israel were failing to acknowledge the LORD as their God and David as their king. And for this, Hosea was prophesying judgment, which would end up being exile and captivity in Assyria and Babylon. They were slaves again, but God would deliver them. And we see elsewhere in scripture that, after 70 years, God did deliver them.
Second, as descendents of Adam, we were born in bondage and slavery to sin. Sin characterized us; we couldn’t escape from it. But Jesus Christ has redeemed us! He has bought us on the cross. He has paid our debts and bought us out of slavery to sin and unrighteousness and clothed us again in his own. He has called us and saved us out of a condition that was just as bleak as Gomer’s. That is where we were. And in the Bible that’s where we see that the people of Israel were when they were in captivity.
Third, in order to repent of our sins, we have to realize that we are in this same kind of dire condition. Our sins are real sins, not just little mistakes—not little peccadilloes. Christ had to die on the cross in order to atone for our sins and offenses against the Father. Our condition was very serious—and yours still is, if you have not come to know repentance and God’s love and grace and kindness. But there is hope, as we shall see.
3. The third observation comes from verses 3 and 4. Verse 3 contains a condition and a promise. In the first half of the verse Hosea invites Gomer into his house, not as a slave but as a spouse, as a wife. And here’s the condition to Gomer: don’t continue to live as a prostitute. To Israel: Don’t continue to worship Baal. In verse 4, Hosea lists several of the items that represent Israel’s unfaithfulness: king or prince, sacrifice or sacred stones, ephod or idol.
Brothers and sisters: don’t chase after your own idols. Don’t try to justify yourselves in front of others. Don’t worship the approval of other people. You probably have a better idea than I do about what your idols are—stop chasing after them. Some of you can see very clearly the lives you were called away from at your conversion. This passage calls you to continue in your repentance. Keep repenting of sin; keep fighting the good fight.
This kind of repentence is possible and we can be confident that it is possible because of the promise we find in verse 3. When Hosea calls Gomer to forsake prostitution in order to live faithfully as a wife, he promises her, as the ESV renders it, “so will I also be to you.” Likewise, God is going to be faithful to us, just as he has been faithful to his people. He delivered them out of exile after 70 years. He sent his Son to be the long-expected Messiah. He is faithful and he will continue to be faithful. He will be faithful to keep us from stumbling, and from falling to our own ruin, and from making shipwreck of our souls; so then we continue in repentance and faith. God’s faithfulness to us is founded in his own steadfast love. And we can be confident of that.
4. The fourth observation comes from verse 5. Verse 5 is full of assurance. Hosea continues, "Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days"
What happens to Israel? They will return.
To whom will they return? To the LORD as God and David as King.
The significance of this verse to the northern kingdom of Israel was that after Solomon died, they broke away from David’s dynasty. They rejected David’s throne. This verse is fulfilled in the short run when the Israelites return from captivity, united under one king. It is fulfilled in the long run when Jesus Christ was incarnate—when he was made man. In Christ, there is a king on David’s throne—an eternal king.
Jesus Christ was their king and he is ours. So this verse demonstrates that in the last days, God’s people will seek him and will return to him. I would imagine that many of us have experienced this. If you haven’t, you are invited today—now even! We pray that people would trust in this promise for themselves. People here in the USA and overseas. People who have never heard of Jesus and Christians with little c’s who sit in pews week after week, worshipping something else. But this passage ends with a promise: that God’s people will come to him. They, we will turn to him in repentance and faith.
So, Hosea and Gomer—the second greatest story in the Bible. But it reflects the greatest story. Hosea welcomes Gomer, and she comes into his house as his wife. This story reflects the kind of Love that God has for you and me, so that even though we have rebelled against him, he welcomes us back. Not only that, he calls us back. He saves us. He gives us his amazing grace. So turn to him in repentance. Learn to love his character. Let us freely meditate with the psalmist on God's law, God's word day and night. And we can come to it not under his condemnation but with his help.
So Let’s Pray.