“Therefore I am now going to allure her [Israel]; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.” – Hosea 2:14
The prophet Hosea certainly had one of the least enviable jobs ever. God commanded him to take a wife who both God and Hosea knew would be unfaithful, so Hosea married Gomer, a prostitute. They had several children together, but at length she went back to her old ways. She left Hosea, went back to her lovers, and ended up betrayed into the slave market.
Hosea then did the unthinkable. He bought her back.
“The LORD said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress…’ So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.” (Hosea 3:1-3)
In a very real sense, Hosea redeemed his wayward bride. Instead of leaving her to the natural consequences, he brought her back into the covenant of marriage.
From the very beginning, the Lord makes it clear to Hosea that the pain of betrayal, ingratitude, and inconstant nature of Gomer was nothing less than God himself experienced at the hands of his bride, the people of Israel. Idolatry far exceeded faithfulness to the covenant, and the nation became increasingly entangled with foreign kingdoms, against God’s direct commandment. They were the wayward bride, and their fate would be no less than Gomer’s. Hosea assured every Israelite that the natural consequences of their action – slavery and destitution – were coming.
And yet the Lord did not abandon them. Instead, when everything they had trusted was stripped away, he pursued them. God said,
“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her … I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.” (Hosea 2:14,19)
Once emptied of its treasures, its gods, and its affluence, Israel found that they were not an object of ultimate wrath, but of ultimate mercy. All this despite the broken covenants, promises, and ingratitude toward the God who had already saved them from slavery. The commentator Matthew Henry notes the incredible grace displayed here in the Old Testament:
“When it was said, She forgot me, one would think it should have followed, ‘Therefore I will abandon her, I will forget her, I will never look after her more.’ No, Therefore I will allure her. God’s thoughts and ways of mercy are infinitely above ours; his reasons are all fetched from within himself, and not from any thing in us; nay, his goodness takes occasion from man’s badness to appear so much the more illustrious… the design is plainly to magnify free grace to those on whom God will have mercy purely for mercy’s sake.”
Let’s never forget that in God’s hands, even the desert is a place of restoration.