In his treatment of Israel, the Lord God finds himself torn between two conflicting motives.
On the one hand, he wants to separate himself from sin.
On the other hand, he does not want to detach himself from his people.
This creates a dilemma, as long as his people remain attached to sin;
What's wrong with Israel?
As the husband of a chronically unfaithful wife, he’s almost obliged to put them away;
I will give them up
Yet as the father of a long-nourished child, he wants to keep them in his embrace;
I cannot give them up
There is a way of cutting through this dilemma.
He can cause them to abandon their unfaithfulness, so that he can bring them back.
There is a cunning plan.
“I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her” (Hosea ch2 v14).
He will take her into the wilderness, not as a punishment, but as a way of isolating her from bad influence and keeping her to himself.
It will be a kind of second honeymoon, after which the couple will be able to renew their vows.
The valley of Achor had been a place of sorrow in the time of Joshua.
The Lord had abandoned his people in battle, because of the disobedience of Achan, and his wrath was not averted until Achan was punished (Joshua
Now the Lord will make the valley of Achor into “a door of hope”.
Not the physical location, but the experience of being abandoned by the Lord in battle, because this will be the proximate cause of their exile. Their
exile, in turn, will be the “wilderness experience” which will bring them back to the Lord.
As a result, the wayward wife will once more answer to the Lord “as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of
This “answering”, or responding, will then come round full circle.
The people will respond to their God, who asks for their allegiance.
Their God will respond to the heavens, which ask for water.
Then the earth also asks for water, and the heavens will be able to respond.
The earth will respond to the grain, the oil, and the wine, which all ask for water.
Finally these in turn will be able to answer the needs of the community of Jezreel.
In effect, the community will be re-sown into the ground of their land (vv21-22).
In the first chapter, the prophet was instructed to call two of his children “Not-pitied” and “Not-my-people”, as a description of the state
But once they come back to the Lord, this will be reversed.
The Lord will take pity on the “not-pitied” nation.
And those who were “not-my-people” will become his own people once again (v23).
A few chapters later, we get another version of the same sequence.
The Lord says that he will “return to his place”.
That is, he will break off contact with Israel instead of “coming down” and helping them.
This will prompt them, in their distress, to acknowledge their guilt and “seek my face” (ch5 v15).
They will say “Let us return unto the Lord”.
The Lord has wounded them, so the Lord (and he alone) will be able to bind up the wounds and heal them.
He will be able to “raise us up” (from sickness, that is, rather than from death).
This will happen “after two days, on the third day”; as we would say, “after two or three days”, in a short period of time.
Then he will come back to his people “as the spring rains that water the earth” (ch6 vv1-3).
There’s one more appeal at the end of the book;
“Return, O Israel to the Lord your God” (ch14 v1).
This return involves an acknowledgement of their faults, and a willingness to abandon them;
“Take with you words and return to the Lord;
Say to him, ‘Take away all iniquity, accept that which is good, and we will render the fruit of our lips…
And we will say no more “Our God” to the work of our hands’”.
In return, God promises “I will love them freely…
They will return and dwell beneath my shadow, they will flourish as a garden”.
But perhaps the most important promise is the statement that “I will heal
their faithlessness” (v4); that is “I will heal their tendency
to be unfaithful”.
The Lord’s dilemma will be resolved if his people turn away from their sins, for then there is no reason for separation to come between them.
But if the “turning away from sin” could only be made permanent, then the dilemma would vanish altogether.