Judgment - and forgiveness

A reflection on Hosea 1:1-3; 2:1-23

In this passage, through the example of Israel’s troubled relationship with God, we learn that God will judge the unfaithful but ultimately also call them back to Him. From this, we are reminded once again that our God is both a just and gracious God.

At the start of the passage, a parallel is drawn between Israel the unfaithful nation and Gomer the adulterer (1:2). Hosea then speaks at length, using this extended metaphor, about the disregard that Israel has shown for God. He emphasizes that it is Israel’s unfaithfulness that lies at the heart of its attitude (2:1, 2:4, 2:5): Israel has worshipped false gods (2:8, 2:13) under the mistaken impression that they are the source of its rich blessings (2:5, 2:8, 13). We can certainly see reflected in Israel our own inconstant acknowledgment of God as the one true God: we so often forget that it is only from Him that all things in this life – be it grain, wine, oil, silver or gold – are given.

Because of this, Hosea continues, Israel will receive the judgment of God. The promised consequences are by no means trivial. God will withdraw from Israel the many gifts with which He has showered it (2:9, 2:12) and punish Israel for its idolatry (2:13): as Hosea writes, He will “take away [His] grain when it ripens, and [His] new wine when it is ready” (2:9), and “punish her for the days she burned incense to the Baals” (2:13).

Yet, despite this, two related aspects about God’s character made clear. First, even in the midst of His judgment, God is not a vengeful God. Rather, there is a corrective element to His teaching. For instance, God withholds from Israel His blessings because Israel has failed to acknowledge His hand in their provision (2:5) and instead falsely attributed them to an idol. In their denial, Israel is reminded of their source, and led back to God (2:7). Second, God’s love is undiminished: He desires for us to be restored with Him, and will readily accept us if we repent. When this happens, we will enjoy an even closer relationship with our Heavenly Father: He will say to us, “You are my people”, and we will say to Him, “You are my God” (2:23).

As we are reminded in Deuteronomy 7:9: “Know therefore that the Lord your God is Godl he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”

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