The Atonement in Hosea's Love for Gomer by Dr. Robert Vasholz
The eternal atonement of Christ reaches out to two audiences. It reaches out to mankind. The atonement reconciles, rescues, ransoms, redeems, restores, relieves, renews, resurrects and rejuvenates. Its effect on men is astonishing.
The other audience is God Himself. In Exodus 12 the Lord said, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you." God saw the blood atonement and where the blood was He passed over the slaying of the firstborn. What that tells us is that the effect of the eternal atonement that the lamb represents causes God to act in special ways toward His own. The atonement extends God-ward; it stirs His compassion. " … the Lord was pleased to crush him…. As a result of the anguish of his soul He will see it and be satisfied…." One-way that the atonement effects God is illustrated is in Hosea 1-3.
The drama of the prophet Hosea's marriage is well known. Marriage and family were regarded as among the highest values in the culture. The prophet married a woman from Israel, the northern tribes. While there is a debate as to whether this woman was promiscuous or not, the beginning of Hosea's marriage is commendable. He was commanded by the Lord to do so. It specifically says that she gave him a son. "…he went and took Gomer… and she conceived and bore him a son" (Hosea 1:3). O happy day!
Subsequently, the picture changes. Hosea's wife Gomer conceives and has two other children and it conspicuously does not say that Hosea is the father. In fact the name of her children implies that as well. The name of the second child was "No Mercy". This, in sum, is a denial of Hosea's paternity. This child will not receive the fatherly compassion or pity a father shows his child (Psalm 103:13; 109:12). "Upon her (Gomer's) children I will show no mercy...." The name of the third child is "Not My People." It is explicit. Hosea says he is not mine. Finally, Hosea 2:4-5 refers to them as "children of whoredom whose mother has played the whore and acted shamefully."
All of this was to use Hosea's marriage as a caricature of Israel's unfaithfulness to God. Of interest is that as far as we know it is only in the Old Testament in the ancient world that the relationship between a people and God is depicted as a covenant of marriage. The caricature or allegory is made clear when judgments against Gomer are described in terms of national disasters. "… I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts. And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees…." hardly describes the judgment on an individual (Hosea 2:11-12). The treatment of adulteress Gomer and adulteress Israel are interspersed and merged. How Hosea treats his wayward wife is how God will treat Israel.
It is in this manner that we may see the God-ward effect of the atonement. God calls Israel to repentance through the advocacy of her children (Hosea 2:2). While there is not an explicit mention of atonement in Hosea, the call to forgiveness presupposes atonement and atonement presupposes love (John 3:16) There is no call for forgiveness where there is no atonement; atonement is where mercy and love kiss each other (Psalm 85:10).
Love is the motivation for an atonement that compels love to pursue and call back adulterers. Love disciplines. Love is compelling and doggedly pursues the one loved for one's own good.
So in spite of Gomer's infidelity Hosea does not stop loving his wife and he is resigned not to let her go. He calls his beloved to return to him. For God never stops loving Israel and will not let her go for whom He has provided atonement. (Old Testament sacrifices among other things should have taught them that.) Though there are various ways in His wisdom that the Lord in Scripture deals with this conundrum Hosea shows us one of these ways.
That way is illustrated again by another command to the prophet in Hosea 3:1-2. "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. So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore or belong to another man; so will I also be with you."
To understand what God is commanding Hosea to do is to recognize that a possible preferred translation of an above clause is not, "So I bought her for fifteen shekels …." but rather "I provided her with fifteen shekels …." This translation better suits what precedes and what follows. Hosea provides provisions for his promiscuous wife so that she can live/stay with him for a long time. Her confinement means she cannot be unfaithful to Hosea. Hosea will shut her in. It is significant to note that the isolation of Hosea's wife to himself, like before (Hosea 1:2), is "to show love". Hosea, due to his untiring and patient love, would segregate his lusting wife for her own good. A time of seclusion was intended for her to renew the relationship that Hosea had for her from the start. "
"…. And they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days."
What God commanded Hosea to do in Hosea 3 elucidates the previous chapter. The command to Hosea to confine and contain his wife in Hosea 3 alludes to the two "therefores". The first therefore is in Hosea 2:6. "Therefore I will hedge her in with thorns…." The verb hedge incorporates the idea of fencing one in for his or her own good. In Job 1:10 Satan addressed the Lord concerning Job. Satan said, "Have you not made a hedge (same verb) about him and his house and all that he has on every side?" Satan said that God had fenced Job in and that is why Job was so blessed.
The God of Israel, like Hosea with his wife, will fence Israel in. Because of His unending and steady love He calls Israel to return from her adultery (i.e. idolatry) for forgiveness. Love doesn't give up easily.
In Hosea 2:6 and following it shows that the Lord's love is not only unrelenting it is remedial. It can be termed "tough love".("For whom the Lord loves He chastens.") If Israel returns, God will not publicly shame her; a sentence worse than death in the ancient near east (2:3,10). But in His compassion He will restrict His wife, a personification of Israel. He will wall Israel in. He will prevent her from straying into foreign pastures that will put her in harm's way. "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart; O take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above" All this is so that she will come to herself and say, "I will go back to my first husband for it was better for me then than now" (Hosea 2:7).
The second therefore is in Hosea 2:14. While redeeming love may be harsh, it may be most tender. Hosea 2:14 is where the Lord reiterates affectionately His plead to Israel, " Therefore I will allure her, bring her back into the wilderness and speak kindly to her." Here the Lord woes His bride. He extends magnificent enticements. His love compels God to poor out His bounty. Where before He promised harsh discipline, now He offers consolation and relief.
The Lord likens Israel's confinement to the time of the Exodus and the wilderness wanderings. He will take Israel back to when they were redeemed by the blood of the Passover lamb. There in the wilderness the judgments pronounced before are turned around.
The desert place will become a vineyard (3, 14). Instead of no compassion for her children He will show compassion (4, 23). In place of no harvest there will be grain and new wine (9, 22). Instead of shame, there will be singing (9,10, 15). Instead of adultery/idolatry, there will be true adoration (11, 16,17). In the Valley of Achor where a criminal and family were executed, there it will be a doorway of hope (15). Above all God will repeat His marriage vows with His bride when He whisked her away from Egypt. "And I will say to those who were not my people, You are my people! And they will say, You are my God (23; cf. Leviticus 26:12,13). It is the prevailing goodness of God that entices us to repentance and the prevailing goodness of God that holds us there.