THE RUGGED ROAD TO REPENTANCE
Hosea was a prophet with a problem. The problem was his wife. He had been told by God to go out and marry Gomer. The problem wasn’t her name; the problem was her profession. She was a woman of the streets. She was a woman who sold her body to be used by other men.
Commentators have struggled
with these instructions. The Bible is
quite clear in teaching that we are not to be unequally yoked with
unbelievers. These instructions to Hosea
seem to be terribly wrong. Calvin taught
that the Hosea story was just a parable and that it really didn’t happen at
all. I am certain that Hosea wished that
were the case. His story was meant,
after a sense, to be a parable. It was a
living parable. He was to act out in his
life and in his marriage the relationship between the faithful God of the
universe and the unfaithful people of
Why did the prophet have to be so personally involved in this parable? I think it was that he might FEEL the pain caused by his unfaithful bride. He was to feel what God felt. His spirit was to be grieved in the same way that God’s Spirit is grieved by spiritual unfaithfulness. It was only in such a way that Hosea could call the people back to repentance.
It is that call that we see as we come to chapter 2. As we read this call, we should read with it the pathos and the heart-longing of one who has suffered the pains of marital betrayal and who yet calls his beloved to come home.
1 Say to your brothers, "Ammi," and to your sisters, "Ruhamah."
2 "Contend with your mother, contend,
For she is not my wife, and I am not her husband;
And let her put away her harlotry from her face,
And her adultery from between her breasts,
3 Lest I strip her naked
And expose her as on the day when she was born.
I will also make her like a wilderness,
Make her like desert land, And slay her with thirst.
4 "Also, I will have no compassion on her children,
Because they are children of harlotry.
5 "For their mother has played the harlot;
She who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, 'I will go after my lovers,
Who give me my bread and my water,
My wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.'
6 "Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns,
And I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths.
7 "And she will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them;
And she will seek them, but will not find them.
Then she will say, 'I will go back to my first husband,
For it was better for me then than now!'” (Hosea 2:1‑7).
This passage at first glance does not seem to be pleasant. It is filled with judgment and contention and hardship. You can feel the pain. But there is also hope in this passage. Our first hint of hope comes in the first verse where there is a play on the names of the children of Hosea.
Say to your brothers, "Ammi," and to your sisters, "Ruhamah." (Hosea 2:1).
In the previous chapter, we find that Hosea had several children and that their names were prophetically significant. Their names pointed to God’s judgment against His people.
• His son was named Lo-Ammi.
The Hebrew term Lo means “no” or “not.”
Ammi is “my people.”
His son’s name meant: “Not my people.”
That was a crushing name. It was God’s way of saying, “Even though you are the physical descendants of Abraham, the chosen people, your sinful unbelief has brought you to the point where you are not My people.”
• His daughter was named Lo-Ruhamah.
The Hebrew term Lo means “no” or “not.”
Ruhamah is “to find compassion.”
His daughter’s name meant, “You will not find compassion.” That is not a very comforting name. Compassionless.
Hosea had started this book by warning the people that they had come to a point in their spiritual lives where they were
• Lo-Ammi: Not God’s people.
• Lo-Ruhamah: Cut off from God’s compassion.
But now there is a change. It comes in the form of a promise how there will come God’s appointed leader — His Messiah. He promises at the end of chapter 1 that there will come a time when:
(1) They will be called the sons of the living God (1:10).
of being scattered, the sons of
(3) They will appoint for themselves one leader and it will be God’s leader; God’s Messiah.
You would think that
everything would now be sweetness and light.
It is not. Hosea looks to a
future Messiah, but he lives in a present dilemma of
God’s present judgment
God’s future salvation
How does God bring His people from their present rebellion to their future repentance? How do they get there from here?
In the case of
I want to look at three of the landmarks along the way of their spiritual journey. As we look at their spiritual journey, perhaps we will see familiar landmarks of our own spiritual journey. It is a journey of repentance and it is a journey designed to bring you home.
1. God Draws you to Repentance by Exposing your Spiritual Nakedness: Lest I strip her naked and expose her as on the day when she was born (2:3).
One of the hallmarks of the Assyrian onslaught would be that the captives would have their clothing removed. Clothes were for free people. It was not a right or a privilege guaranteed to captives or to slaves.
There is in the Scripture a theology of clothing. It begins far back in the Garden of Eden. You remember the story. Adam and Eve were placed into a garden where they had no need of anything; not even clothing.
But soon there came a smooth-talking serpent and Eve was deceived and Adam went along with it and a bite of the forbidden fruit led to their eyes being opened and a realization that all was not right with the world or with themselves. They were exposed. They were naked. They sought to cover themselves with self-made garments of fig leaves. The results would have been less than desirable.
Then God came and began to ask questions.
“Where are you?”
“Why are you hiding?”
“Who told you that you were naked?”
“What have you done?”
“Have you eaten of that which was forbidden?”
Each question was designed to strip away their fig leaves of self righteousness and to leave them naked and without excuse before the eyes of their Holy Judge. It was only when their sin was exposed that God moved in grace to give them a promise and a covering. The covering came in the form of coats of skin and the promise looked forward to a future Messiah who would destroy the work of the tempter and who would set wrong to right.
What God did physically in the Garden in exposing a physical nakedness, Jesus did spiritually in His Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount is a sermon that tells what it means to be like God. It involves a paradigm shift from the popular self-made religion of the day to a picture of true righteousness and justice.
Jesus describes the law behind the law when He says:
• You’ve heard it said that you should not murder. I say that you should not hate or harbor bitterness in your heart.
• You’ve heard it said that you should not steal. I say that you should not covet or desire the possessions of another.
• You’ve heard it said that you should not commit adultery. I say that you should not allow your heart to entertain illicit thoughts.
• You’ve heard it said that you keep your legal obligations. I say that you need to keep your spiritual obligations.
Do you see it? The Law points to the righteousness of God and says, “That is the standard by which you are to be judged.” In doing so, it strips away the veneer of self-righteous fig leaves and it leaves you poor and naked before the eyes of your God. It is only then, when you have abandoned your tattered fig leaves, that God comes and clothes you with His royal robes of righteousness. Here is the progression:
We cover up
Then God covers
2. God Draws you to Repentance by Cultivating your Spiritual Thirst: I will also make her like a wilderness, Make her like desert land, And slay her with thirst.(2:3).
context of this passage looks to the judgment God would bring upon
of you know that Paula and I were recently in the
What was interesting was when we came into a Bedouin tent and were served food for our journey. They gave us hot, spicy food—the kind that catches your throat on fire. Why? Because that kind of food makes you thirsty and forces you to drink and to take in the very water that you need to take in.
God was going to do to
He fills us with a spiritual hunger.
He entices us with a spiritual thirst.
We often try our own ways and means to fill those needs. We try to excel in our careers, we try to grow in power and in popularity. We try to fill that emptiness with a special person in our lives. We try to find meaning in our children or our grandchildren. We go out in a vain search for those twin desires of security and significance and none of it lasts because those are all insufficient to fill the void that is so great that it can only be filled by the God of the Universe.
3. God Draws you to Repentance by Restricting your Spiritual Options: Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths (2:6).
This is the language of a shepherd. The shepherd knows his sheep and he knows that the one characteristic common to sheep is that they tend to wander away. As long as they follow the shepherd, they are allowed to move about as he leads them to the pastoral lands where they can feed. But when they begin to wander, he brings them back to the fold.
what does the fold consist? Of what
materials do you make a sheepfold in the
Are there any rocks in your life? Any thorns? Are there things in your life that are hindering your headlong pursuit of the Great American Dream?
• It might be your financial situation.
• It might be a lack of power or a lack of prestige.
• It might be a physical issue.
Or perhaps your rocks are not of the physical nature, but you’ve been no less thirsty in a dry and thirsty land. You’ve had the experience of Solomon who tried it all and tasted it all and found that it really doesn’t satisfy and at the end of days your life has become a series of empty experiences.
What is going on? It could be that God is building a hedge and a wall around your own life to stop you from seeking other lovers — other things to satisfy the longing that only He can satisfy.
Paul spoke of a thorn in the flesh that he was given to keep him from exalting himself (2 Corinthians 12:7). He had come to the realization that this thorny situation, this rocky road, was there for his own benefit and for his own spiritual growth. What I am suggesting is that the rocks and thorns in your own life are there for the same reason.
At the end of verse seven we read:
Then she will say, 'I will go back to my first husband,
For it was better for me then than now!'” (2:7).
Have you come to that point in your own spiritual journey? Note that this isn’t written to those who never knew the Lord. If that describes you, if you have never heard how Christ died in your place upon the cross as a sacrifice for sins, how He was buried, and how He rose from the dead, then you are invited to hear and to believe that good news.
But this passage is written for those who heard that good news once upon a time and who met that message with at least a measure of belief. But then you strayed. Like sheep without a shepherd, you wandered away. Like a ship no longer attached to her anchor, you drifted.
Now you are feeling the unsettling effects of your spiritual nakedness and the grating dissatisfaction of your spiritual thirst and your very life has seemed to hem you in.
It is time to repent, to turn your steps and your heart back to the Lord. God is drawing you back to Himself. It is time to come home.
When you come, you do not find judgment or condemnation. You find a table and the welcome arms of your Heavenly Father. You are called to come and eat the bread that satisfies and to drink that which can quench your thirst.
We are instructed by the Scriptures to examine ourselves. Indeed, the Scriptures place great emphasis upon such self-examination. Listen to some of the following instructions:
2 Corinthians 13:5. Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you‑‑ unless indeed you fail the test?
Galatians 6:4. But let each one examine his own work.
1 Corinthians 11:27‑28. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
Why is self-examination so important? It is important because we are inclined to depart from the grace of God. That is why the Scriptures so often call us to return and to remain in Him.
It is possible to be deceived regarding our own spiritual status. Jesus warned that at the last day there would be some who fully expected to be citizens of the kingdom who would hear those awful words, “I never knew you.”
There is an old saying that goes: You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. The truth is that you cannot fool God any of the time, and while you might be able to fool others some of the time, you are normally able to fool yourself most of the time.
That is why Paul says to test yourself to see if you are in the faith. When I was with the Fire Department, we would roll up to the scene of the emergency and we would find an unconscious patient. One of the first things we would do is to look for signs of life. Was the patient breathing? Was his heart beating?
If these signs were not present, then we would take appropriate action. The Bible does the same thing. It gives us signs of spiritual life and we can use these to perform a spiritual diagnosis. It is for this reason that you are to look at your life and you are to see if there are signs of life. Is there...
• Faith and dependence upon Jesus Christ
• A love of the brethren
• A growing desire to please the Lord
It may be that God is drawing you today to repentance, having stripped you bare, having created a spiritual hunger and a spiritual thirst, having hemmed you in, so that He can...
• Clothe you with the righteousness of Christ that has been credited to you.
• Feed you and have you drink of that which will be an everlasting spring of life.
• Set you free with a real freedom in Christ.
It is at a time such as this that you might pray the prayer of the man who brought his son to Jesus to be healed:
• Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.
• Lord, I love. Help my lack of love.
• Lord, I want to obey. Help my obedience.
And then you come to meet the One who...
• Obeyed in your place.
• Loved you to death.
• Accomplished the work on the cross in which you can trust and rely.