Eph 5.1Take your Bibles this week and open with me to Hosea chapter 3. After Daniel and before Joel, and once you have found Hosea, be sure not to miss chapter 3 as it is only 5 verses. But never fear, we can unpack quite a bit from these 5 verses this week!

Reading several commentaries and even listening to a few sermons on this chapter in preparation to preach through it, I have heard several great preachers and theologians say that this is their favorite chapter in all of the Scripture. I hope you will understand why they would say this as we work through these verses this week and see the truth within this picture of God’s love seen in Hosea and the relationship with his unfaithful wife, Gomer. Here is our text:

Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.” 2 So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley. 3 And I said to her, “You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man—so, too, will I be toward you.” 4 For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim. 5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.

 As we look at the concept of redemption, of being redeemed, these 5 verses give us a perfect picture of God redeeming His people. He reveals the concept to us in this picture, in this pageant played out before us, as He tells Hosea to go redeem his wife from this horrible situation in which he finds her due to her sin and her unfaithfulness. As we are already familiar with the story from the first two chapters, Hosea was told by the Lord to marry Gomer and after he did, and they had had one child, she became unfaithful and she left him. She went and lived with other men, having 2 children by men other than her husband, pursuing her lust and pursuing having her needs and wants met as she sought to consume provisions given to her as payment for her prostitution.

We have seen Hosea name the children born out of her unfaithfulness and in fact have reason to believe that he was being a father to them as they were abandoned by their mother as she continued to pursue her lovers. Hosea made provision for her, and for these other men, as he sought to be a husband to her even though she certainly was not living as a wife to him.

Again, in this living parable, we see Hosea serving as a picture, a representation of God, and Gomer, the unfaithful wife, serving as a picture of God’s people in Israel. Now in chapter 3 God shows us His plan to deal with His unfaithful people.

He starts in verse 1 with The Plan. Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.” Here we also find a description of the people who are living in unfaithfulness. And as Gomer pictures this we find her having lost her provisions and her lovers, and in fact not being able to pursue a life of pleasure at all. Where once she was chasing sin, now she is bound by it. She sought to chase after her lusts, her wants, her desires, but now we find her being auctioned on the slave market. She is being sold to cover her debts, so now instead of pursuing pleasure she is living in absolute, actual bondage to her sin. She has no choice. She is for sale.

As God lays out the plan for what is going to happen with Hosea and with Gomer we find the Lord telling the prophet that he needs to go and buy Gomer at the slave auction. He needs to be the highest bidder. And this is not only a matter of paying the highest price in order to outbid the others. No, he is told to go love her again, to love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery. Hosea is told to love Gomer despite her sin, despite her unfaithfulness, despite her dilemma being auctioned for sale. Even though these are the expected consequences of her sin and her pursuit of her own selfish desires, there is no condemnation here – only love! Go again, love her, just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel.

God says that His children look to other gods for provision and love the raisin cakes of the pagans. This is a reference to some of the sacrifices that would be made to false gods. Even in the face of their absolute unfaithfulness and spiritual adultery through idolatry, God uses Hosea to demonstrate His love for His people by telling him to go love his wife again. Loving again – not that he stopped – he is to continue in his love for her. He is saying keep loving her, continue loving her, don’t stop loving her.

This small chapter in this minor prophet mirrors Ephesians chapter 5. Here God has said that Hosea is to continue loving his wife following the example of God’s love for His people. In Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul writes, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” He says to Hosea, go love Gomer just like God loves His people. Imitate God’s love. Imitate God! 1 John tells us that God is love and what better example could we ever find of what love looks like and acts like than to imitate God and His love? He is the embodiment of true love and we are told in Hosea and in Ephesians to imitate Him.

This love is absolute and unwavering. It is love based not on the sin and unfaithfulness of the object of that love – Gomer, Israel, the Church. It is loved based on the character, holiness, goodness, and perfection of God. Hosea has an opportunity here to show the people how God loves them. Paul here tells us how to do this, how to imitate God and His love. Just so there is no confusion on what he is saying, he says, “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us.” Everything that we do should be motivated by love for God and demonstrated by our love for one another.

Interesting, isn’t it, that we do not have to be taught how to love ourselves? That seems to come to us all too naturally. But we are commanded to love God and love our neighbor and we are told that this is the sum of all the law and prophets. In order to obey, in order to be like Christ, in order to imitate God, we must walk in love. Love involves sacrifice. Love means denying self and serving others. Love means putting others first and giving them priority. Love is a decision we make as we determine how to relate to those around us. Seeking truth. Seeking what is best. Again, love is not an emotion, but a choice we make as to how we will treat other people.

Jesus has demonstrated the greatest kind of love, hasn’t He? The highest love. The greatest love. He said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” And while we equate this to His death, rightly, we must also see that truly loving someone means laying our life aside in order to meet their needs. Laying down my life does not mean that I must die in their place, it means that I must die to myself and my wants and my wishes in service to the one I love.

Hosea is learning how to love like this. This cannot have been easy. To go and continue to love Gomer even as the consequences of her sin and unfaithfulness have born this fruit of captivity. To love her even though she loved others. To love this one who did not love him! How can he do this any other way than by imitating God and His love for us, His unfaithful, idolatrous people?

Often when those we love hurt or betray us we respond by saying that we do not love them any longer. Love is not something you fall into or out of; love is not a feeling. Love is not a summary of how we want to feel or have felt in the past about someone. Love is a choice, a decision of the will, to set our affection on another. We expect the emotions to follow the will – and I know that in these days of confusion and depravity it is all too easy to expect our will to follow and bend to our emotions, but our emotions are not in charge, they are not reliable, they can be manipulated, and they are fickle, just as our hearts are! Hosea is being told here how to think, act, and feel in spite of the reality that his wife has run headlong into a life of harlotry. She doesn’t want to come home or come back or submit to her covenantal relationship with Hosea. She has thrown her life to the wind and is reaping the whirlwind. He is going to have to prove and show and demonstrate his love for her by being the highest bidder at the auction where she is now for sale.

This is love. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13:4-8). Love never quits. Never gives up. Never stops. No matter how the person we love responds or doesn’t respond. Too often our view of love is truly wrapped up in and warped by self-love, the love we have for ourselves and the way we expect others to act toward us. Love is not selfish but sacrificial.

So God tells Hosea to go back and continue loving Gomer. This is The Plan. God says love like I love.