GOD’S MERCY ON HIS PEOPLE
by Wayne S. Walker
Even though the Old Testament is not God’s law for us today, the New Testament reminds us that the Old Testament scriptures were written for our learning and contain admonitions for us. The historical information is very helpful in understanding the execution of God’s scheme for our redemption, and the lives of various individuals furnish wonderful examples of good and evil. The writings provide good advice on wisdom and praise. And the prophets make predictions by which we can identify the Messiah and also reveal things by which we can see God’s attitude towards His people and their sin.
The story of the prophet Hosea as recorded in the book bearing his name is extremely interesting. Not only did he preach against the sins of the northern kingdom of ten tribes, but his life also illustrated their faithlessness. His own wife, who bore him three children (many scholars believe that at least the last two were not his), then became unfaithful to him and left him to live a life of degradation. This illustrated the apostasy of the Israelites and their punishment. However, Hosea went out to search for her, and when he found her he took her back again. This illustrated God’s love for Israel and his willingness to receive them back after they repented. Based on the prophet’s experiences, Hosea 2:14-20 talk about God’s mercy on His people.
First, we see God’s effort in v. 14a. “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness.” The word "allure" means to attract. When a young man is trying to win the affections of a young woman, he does everything that he can to attract her attention, perhaps even taking her off by themselves from time to time so they can talk and get to know one another. What has God done to attract us to His plan for our salvation? He sent His Son to live a perfect life as an example for us (1 Pet. 2.21-23). We often sing a song which says, "Let the Beauty of Jesus Be Seen in Me"
Even more importantly, God planned for His Son to die as an atonement for our sins. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5.8). Then He raised His Son from the dead to demonstrate that everything that He told us is true. “Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was…declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” ( Rom. 1.3-4). Through the centuries, these things have attracted literally millions of people to God’s way.
Second, we see God’s communication in vs. 14b-15. He said that He would “speak comfort to her” and that “I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.” We all know that one of the basic needs for a strong relationship is good communication. Young people who are thinking about getting married need to talk a lot together. What has God done to communicate with us? The purpose of His sending His Son was not only to be our example, die for our sins, and be raised again, but also to reveal His will to us (Heb. 1.1-2).
The means by which Christ reveals God’s word to us is through the written word, which is known by many terms, such as the gospel or the scriptures. It is in the gospel that the Lord makes known His plan for our salvation. Paul says that the gospel “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek, for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (Rom. 1.16-17). Furthermore, God’s communication with us does not stop with just revealing the plan of salvation, but He continues to lead and guide us through the scriptures that we might be equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3.16-17).
Third, we see God’s affection in vs. 16-17. “’And it shall be in that day,’ says the Lord, ‘that you will call Me “My Husband,” and no longer call Me “My Master,” for I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals, and they shall be remembered by their name no more.’” A young man and a young woman who get married usually show a lot of affection toward each other in various ways, including the use of terms of endearment, such as honey, dear, and sweetheart. Even though Israel had forsaken the Lord, He was willing to allow them once again to call Him Husband. God’s affection for us is seen in allowing us to be married to Christ (Rom. 7.1-4).
Of course, while a married couple’s calling one another husband and wife shows affection, being husband and wife is not just an honorary position; there are responsibilities—the wife is to submit to the husband and the husband is to love his wife (Eph. 5.22-27). Christ has already showed His affection and love by giving His life for us; we show our affection by submitting to Him. This affectionate relationship between Christ and His church on earth is symbolic of the eternal relationship that will exist between God and His people in heaven, as the New Jerusalem is pictured as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21.1-2). The marriage that we make with the Lord now will find its ultimate expression in the new heaven and the new earth.
Fourth, we see God’s commitment in v. 18. “In that day, I will make a covenant with them, with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth to make them lie down safely.” When two people get married, they make a commitment or covenant with each other in saying their vows. This is why unscriptural divorce is pictured in the Bible as something that the Lord hates. “…Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant” (Mal. 2.13-14).
God had already made a covenant with Israel. He revealed His will through Moses at Mt. Sinai following their Exodus from Egypt, and they agreed to it, saying, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Exo. 19.1-8, 24.7). The terms of the covenant were if they would keep His laws, He would bless them. However, the Israelites did not keep this covenant. They forsook the Lord and were punished by being sent into captivity; yet, God planned to make a new covenant under the Messiah to provide blessings for all mankind (Jer. 31.31-34). This He did through Jesus Christ (Heb. 8.7-13). The promises of the New Covenant show God’s commitment to us today.
Fifth, we see God’s righteousness in v. 19. “I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy.” Righteousness means always doing what is right. One thing that a husband and wife must always do to treat each other right is to keep themselves pure and never join themselves to another. God, as our spiritual Husband, is perfectly righteous. “They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness, and shall sing of Your righteousness” (Ps. 145.17). We know that the Lord will always do what is right and never leave nor forsake us. The problem is that we, like the Israelites, are not always righteous in our relationship with God–we know this is true because “all have sinned” (Rom. 3.23).
However, because He still loves us, God makes it possible through the cleansing available in Christ for us to be made righteous or justified in His sight. “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness’….Just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered” (Rom. 4.3-7). This is possible through Christ, “who was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:22-25). None of us is perfectly righteous in and of ourselves, but we should always strive to do that which is right before God to the very best of our ability. “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 Jn. 3.7). The fact is that we can be married to God and remain married to Him only through righteousness.
Sixth, we see God’s faithfulness in v. 20. “I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.” Husbands and wives must be faithful to one another. Faithfulness includes being righteous but it involves much more. It demands that each partner fulfil his or her responsibilities to the other. A husband may never become involved with another woman, but he can be unfaithful in other ways. Over and over God has proven His faithfulness as a Husband. For example, when God told Sarah that in spite of her old age and physical condition she would have a child, “she judged Him faithful who had promised” (Heb. 11.11).
Thus, we can be assured that God will be faithful to us. He is faithful not to allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able but to make a way of escape that we may be able to bear the temptation(n 1 Cor. 10.13). And even when we sin, if we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us (1 Jn. 1.9). Given His “track record,” there can be no doubt about the faithfulness of God. The real question, then, is will we be faithful to Him? “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2.10).
No, the Old Testament is not God’s law for us, but there is so much that we can learn about God, His nature, and His love for mankind from the Old Testament, including the prophets. Hosea reminded Israel, and he reminds us, that no matter how far we may stray away from God, the Lord still loves us and wants us to come back to Him so that He might save us from punishment for our sins. And if we truly repent and turn to Him, He will forgive and accept us. What a wonderful God who sent His only Son to seek and save the lost! What a privilege and a pleasure it should be for us to worship and serve Him!
—taken from Expository Files; February, 2010, Vol.17, No.2