This is the wail of One who is on the verge of finally giving up on a relentlessly cheating spouse – when they’ve exhausted seemingly every avenue of restoring their broken relationship…
Except, not every avenue…
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
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.
I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.”
It was like reading about it again, for the first time ever.
How can this be?
How can God excuse the sinner…and still remain just and holy?
And the micro-story…
How can a man or woman, with serially promiscuous spouse, keep forgiving and receiving their unfaithful mate back again, thus preserving the sacredness of their vows?
Which is the background of Hosea…
- God loves nation.
- Nation accepts His proposal.
- Nation betrays covenant…again and again.
- God forgives them…again and again.
- Nation rebuffs love and prostitutes itself to more wicked nations.
- God’s anger is aroused.
- God intends to divorce His own.
- Nation will lose everything in divorce.
- God’s mercy is aroused.
- God raises up a prophet to warn nation.
- God tells prophet to marry a prostitute.
- Hosea and Gomer are wed.
- At first, there is bliss.
- Gomer longs for other lovers.
- She runs after them.
- Hosea finds and forgives her.
- Gomer runs off in time and enslaves herself to wicked lovers.
- Hosea finds her in slave market.
- He buys her back, though she is his bride.
- God uses their story to show how His heart is broken again and again by His unfaithful people – and to what illogical lengths He’ll go to rescue them…
I invite you to read an equally befuddled scholar’s take on this passage. He makes a brave and insightful attempt at explaining the mystery by which sinner is excused and Divine holiness is still intact.
You can tell it leaves him shaking his head in wonderment also:
When God, in spite of sin, says, How can I give you up? My heart is stirred, My compassions are stirred, but I am holy; how can I give you up? and yet says, I will not give you up, I will not, I will not, we are in the presence of some possibility wholly of God. It must have been a great word for trembling and troubled hearts even then.
“But our Bible does not end in Hosea. The name Hosea meant salvation. I do not know who named him. The father or mother, or both, in all probability; but they called that boy Hosea, a sob and sigh and song merging in a name. There came one in the fullness of time whose name was Jehovah and Hosea: Jesus. So in the fulness of time the gleams and glints of glory broke out into full manifestation; and we find out at last in Jesus, how God can be just and the justifier of the sinning soul.
“The way of accomplishment Hosea did not see. In communion with God he had learned facts about the divine nature which seemed to be conflicting, and he delivered his message and uttered the words; but at last he came, who is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of his person, and in him I see how righteousness and peace meet together, and God can be just and the justifier. Through him the claims of justice which are against my soul are all met. Through him the glory of holiness is maintained; for his redemption of the human soul is not a pity that agrees to ignore sin; but a power that cancels it and sets it free from its dominion. Through him the loved one is regained, restored, renewed, and all the lights that flash and gleam upon the prophetic page, astonishing my soul, come into focused unity in Jesus. God says of you, of me, ‘How can I give thee up? I will not … I will not … I will not.’
“But how? ‘I am God and not man, I am the Holy One.’ Through Christ he has made the way by which sinning souls can be conformed to his image, his likeness, his will. The gospel is gleaming in Hosea. It is shining in full radiance in Christ.”
G. Campbell Morgan, Hosea: The Heart and Holiness of God, pp105–6.
Give thanks today, beloved. His love will discipline you when you stray, but His wrath will never find you. That’s because your Sinless Substitute – God Himself – took every ounce of the wrath meant for you, to its full and final dregs.
*Admah and Zeboiim were two cities destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah. They picture swift and final destruction.