For the Love of God, Volume 2/October 30

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By D.A. Carson About Devotional Life
Chapter 303 of the book For the Love of God, Volume 2


2 Kings 12; 2 Timothy 2; Hosea 3—4; Psalm 119:121-144

HOSEA 1 IS TO HOSEA 2 WHAT Hosea 3 is to Hosea 4. The first member of each pair of chapters is written in prose and focuses on Hosea and Gomer; the second is written in poetry and focuses on the parallel relationship between Yahweh and Israel.

In the pair of chapters before us (Hosea 3—4), Hosea begins with a restrained, first-person account of what happened next in his marriage. This chapter brings the account of his marriage to an end. Hosea is charged with loving his wife, who has apparently returned to her harlotry and now “belongs” to some other man (presumably a pimp). Hosea discloses none of his feelings as he buys Gomer back; actions are more important anyway (something our generation has all but forgotten). Yet at the same time he charges Gomer, now returned to him, to be faithful to him.

This exactly mirrors God’s situation. In theory he could righteously dismiss his “bride” and forget about her. Instead, he is committed to getting her back, to paying whatever is necessary to do so—but he also expects his bride, newly returned, to be faithful to him. God still loves his elect. He will pursue them, even after the most horrible rebellion and chastening, and he will buy them back. Indeed, the last verses of chapter 3 envisage an exile which on the long haul will do good: it will establish a time when the remnant will truly “seek the LORD their God and David their king” (3:5).

In Hosea 4 God addresses apostate Israel. “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land” (4:1). The long list of sins is profoundly depressing. The people “are destroyed from lack of knowledge” of God’s Word (4:6). Otherwise put, “A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God” (4:12). The corruption is now endemic. Sarcasm boils to the surface: why should God punish daughters and daughters-in-law for prostitution, when the men love to consort with harlots (4:14)?

God is deepening his people’s sense of shame and guilt. The scorn is palpable: “Do not go to Gilgal; do not go up to Beth Aven” (4:15). Gilgal and Bethel were two of the most important shrines for the covenant people of God. The second, Bethel, means “house of God,” but the prophet recasts it as “Beth Aven,” i.e., “house of wickedness,” for that is all that goes on there. “Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone!” (4:17). Go to church with this lot, and all you are doing is participating in disgusting idolatry and self-seeking, with no attention devoted to learning God’s Word. Better to stay home; this sort of “church” will merely corrupt you.

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