Wednesday, February 25, 2015, 7pm at Living Hope Church of Roselle, Illinois
“The third chapter of Hosea is, in my judgment, the greatest chapter in the Bible, because it portrays the greatest story in the Bible—the death of the Lord Jesus Christ for his people—in the most concise and poignant form to be found anywhere.”1
–James Montgomery Boice
Open your Bible to Hosea 3. The title of our message tonight is “Gomer: A Picture of Our Redemption”.
James Montgomery Boice, the onetime pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia said this about Hosea chapter 3: “The third chapter of Hosea is, in my judgment, the greatest chapter in the Bible, because it portrays the greatest story in the Bible—the death of the Lord Jesus Christ for his people—in the most concise and poignant form to be found anywhere.”2
Let’s Read It
Hosea 3 (ESV) — “And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. 3 And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” 4 For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. 5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.”
Hosea 3 shows us God’s work of redemption—the work by which the Lord Jesus Christ delivered us from sin’s bondage at the cost of his own life—portrayed in Hosea’s purchase of his fallen wife from slavery.
Martin Luther said, "The Church’s great teachers say that marriage is a sacrament. A sacrament is a sacred sign of something spiritual, holy, heavenly, and eternal. . . . It is an outward and spiritual sign of the greatest, holiest, worthiest, and noblest thing that has ever existed or ever will exist: the union of the divine and the human natures in Christ. The holy apostle Paul says that as man and wife united in the estate of matrimony are two in one flesh, so God and man are united in the one person Christ, and so Christ and [His church] are one body. It is indeed a wonderful sacrament, as Paul says in Eph. 5:32, that the estate of marriage truly signifies such a great reality. Is it not a wonderful thing that God is man and that he gives himself to man and will be his, just as the husband gives himself to his wife and is hers? But if God is ours, then everything is ours. Consider this matter with the respect it deserves. Because the union of man and woman signifies such a great mystery, the estate of marriage has to have this special significance."3
Hosea 3 – Gomer Sold into Slavery
In Hosea 3 we read of how our relationship with God is compared to a marriage. We see how God illustrates how he feels about our sin by the story of the Prophet Hosea and his whoring wife Gomer.
In Hosea 3, Gomer has left the prophet Hosea to live with one lover after another. Finally, however, they all rejected her, and she found herself alone, possessing nothing and in so much debt that she is being sold into slavery. Here in Hosea 3 we find her standing in the marketplace to be sold as a slave.
Hosea 3:1-2, “And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley.”
How Did Gomer Sink So Low?
Gomer had left Hosea, as we have already seen, and she had sunk lower and lower in the social scale of the day. Now, at the last, she became a slave and was sold in the capital city of Samaria. There were different ways in which a person could become a slave in antiquity. 4 A person could become a slave through:
War – if another country invaded, it was possible you would be separated from your family and sold into slavery in the conquering country.
Hosea came to the marketplace where the slaves were being sold. In those days slaves were brought, stripped naked, and put on display so the buyers could evaluate their bodies. They needed to see whether they were strong or weak, emaciated or fat, because they were spending money on these slaves.
Hosea’s wife Gomer stood naked, on display with the rest of the slaves. There was an auction and Hosea outbid the others. He didn’t have thirty shekels of silver, which was the full price of a slave, so he said, “I will give you fifteen shekels of silver for her and the rest in grain.” In that way Hosea bought back his wife, clothed her, fed her, and brought her home. Oh, what love that will not let us go!5 Aphrodisiacs of Idolatry
Hosea 3:1b, “though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” The pagan religions that Israel was involved in had to do very much with fertility and immorality. The cakes of raisins were referring to what they thought was an aphrodisiac. It was used in the Canaanite love rituals in which they committed gross immorality in their “worship” of the Canaanite deities.
All idolatry is like an aphrodisiac. It promises so much but delivers emptiness and shame.
Marriage like redemption is costly, vs. 2.
Hosea 3:1-2, “So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley.”
Our Relationship with God is like a Bad Marriage
Here in chapter 3 we see she’s for sale. You say, “How did that happen?” We’re not told. There are a couple ways that could happen. First of all, it says she’s still with a lover. See that? She’s with another man. She’s with a lover. It’s very, very possible he has put her up for sale.
Either she has fallen into debt … that’s one of the reasons you get sold into slavery … or it could be he was a pimp and she had lost her marketability and he was cutting his losses. But it’s bad. It’s as far down as a person could fall. It’s as bad as it can be. It’s as broken as it can be. It’s as miserable as it can be.
So there is Hosea’s really bad marriage. God says, “That is an image of what my relationship with human beings is like,” because he says, “… love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisin.” The cakes of raisin, by the way, were the delicacies that were served at the idol feasts.6
God Like a Spurned Lover
When God says, “Your bad marriage, your betrayal when your wife goes and puts herself in the arms of other lovers … that’s exactly what happens when I love my people and I love human beings, and they put other things before me, and they worship other gods before me. That’s exactly the same thing.”
When God says that, and this is one of the great themes of the Old Testament, he’s telling us two things about him. They’re really important to get. First of all, he’s telling us, “You do not understand the impact of wrongdoing on your God until you understand this image.” When a king sees a citizen breaking a rule, that makes him angry. When a shepherd sees a sheep straying, shepherds say, “Oh … you know sheep.” When a father sees a child disobeying him, that makes him angry.
When the person you love most in your life is putting him or herself in the arms of another lover, that’s different. God says until you understand that … You know, some of you have been through that. Virtually all of you know somebody pretty well who has been through that. There’s almost nothing like it, yet God says, “Until you’ve been through that, or you know somebody who has been through that, you don’t understand the impact of your wrongdoing and your coldness and your waywardness on me.”7
Sold for the Price of a Slave
Hosea offered 15 pieces of silver and a homer or lethek of barley. A lethek of barley is nine bushels, which is another 15 shekels, and so basically, she was bought for 30 shekels. What does this mean?
All we know is 30 shekels is how much it costs to buy a slave in Israel in those days. That must mean she had sunk down to the place where maybe her lovers were just sending her around. Maybe they were pimping for her. Finally, she comes into this situation. She is up for sale. She’s in the marketplace. We know what a terrible thing that was. We know she was probably standing there stripped naked, because the people who were about to buy wanted to see what their merchandise looked like.8 Why Silver and Barley?
What a picture we have. “Silver” is what nobility and those who were more well off would have used to purchase things. “Barley” is what the poor would barter with. And so we see a shadow of Christ here. Christ gave the silver of His deity and the barley of His humanity for our redemption.
The Price of Hosea's Wife Gomer
“So, I bought her …” Do you know what that must mean? From what we can tell, Israel in the eighth century BC, which is when Hosea and Amos were prophesying, had really decayed spiritually and culturally, and was pretty much like the other pagan nations around and, therefore, had adopted many of the customs of the pagan nations around it. Therefore, there’s a very, very good chance this was a public auction, that Gomer was being auctioned as a slave in a public marketplace. We also know she was either then stripped virtually naked or naked, because the bidders had to see what they were getting.
So she’s up for sale. The bidding starts. It’s not hard to imagine that she probably would have had her eyes closed, because it’s not much to do, but it’s about the only thing she had left to shield herself just a little bit from the moment of her greatest degradation. So she hears the voices, and she hears “Five shekels,” “Eight shekels,” and suddenly she begins to realize one of the voices is her husband.
She’s thinking, “What is he doing here? After all I’ve done, what is he doing here?” Then he goes, “Ten … Twelve … Thirteen … Fifteen. Fifteen and a lethech.” Fifteen and a homer of barley, which by the way, is the equivalent of about thirty shekels, which was about the average price for a slave. “Sold!” to Hosea.
He would have come up and he would have covered her nakedness with a cloak and led her away. She must have been saying, “Why would he still want me?” Probably her first response was, “Oh, I get it. Revenge. Now you can do what you want with me.” But verse 3 shows no. He speaks tenderly to her. This verse is very difficult to translate9
God is willing to get messy in our redemption, vs. 3
Hosea 3:3, “And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”
What’s Hosea saying?
Marriage Requires Substitutionary Sacrifice
Hosea is told to take Gomer back. Marriage is always going to be very messy. That's how marriage is. If you are married you know how this is. Some days you are on the giving end of mercy. Some days you are on the receiving end of mercy. In no marriage is one spouse always right.
If you want to win your spouse’s heart, you have to be willing to sacrifice of yourself constantly. Look, it’s her or you.
Husbands, you can have your evening, you can keep yourself emotionally untapped, and if she’s struggling with something your wife just sinks – she feels abandoned. Or you can invest yourself in your wife, and when you’re done with the evening, she feels so much better, and sometimes you feel so much worse. But that’s the way it is. That’s the way it always is. There’s no way for you to love a weak person without some of that person’s weakness coming to you and some of your strength going to her or him. That’s just the way it works. All love of anyone with any kind of need is a form of substitutionary sacrifice.10
Looks Like Revenge
Hosea just purchase his wife as a slave. What does Hosea do? It looks like he wans revenge. We can tell from the text. He must’ve walked up, and instead of treating her as a slave, he covers her nakedness. He puts the veil on her. He gives her back her dignity as a woman, takes her by the hand, and leads her away. Imagine what she’s thinking. Imagine how she looks at him as he approaches her. Imagine her saying, “How could he love me? He couldn’t love me. He has bought me as a slave. He’s now going to tyrannize me. He’s going to get revenge!”11
Not Just a Slave
Verse 3 is hard to translate but it indicates that the prophet Hosea leads Gomer to a place of privacy and he turns to her and he says, “I don’t just want you as a slave.” Do you see what he says? “I don’t even want you back in the house just to be back in the house. If you come back, I want you to be my wife. I don’t want you to sleep with other men, and I will not sleep with other women. We’re not for sharing, Gomer. I’m not for sharing. You’re not for sharing. We are to belong to each other exclusively. I want you to be my wife.”12
Hosea 3:3, “And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” In short, the purpose of our redemption is to deliver us from sin. Israel would need to go into captivity to be delivered from her idols.
Marriage is messy
Three things. First, I want to dwell with you. He says, “No, I don’t want you as a slave. I want you as my wife. I want to build a home again. I want to have a life together with you.” That’s the first thing. But secondly, he says, “However, for a set period of time, for many days, you will have sex with no man, including me.” The grammar actually says, “No man, including me.” There’s going to be a period in which we don’t sleep together, and you certainly don’t sleep with anyone else. “But then,” the end of the verse says, “I will indeed be yours.”
Do you know what he’s saying? He says, “I want to rebuild our lives together, but there’s going to have to be a period here in which we don’t get together, but we do all the hard work of going back through everything that has happened. Then I will indeed be yours. Not just, “You will be mine. I’m the husband here. I bought you.” No, “I will be yours.”13 Restoring a Broken Marriage is Hard Work
Derek Kidner, in his commentary on Hosea, says it like this. What was Hosea doing? “… there were the disloyal habits of years to be broken, and the realities of personal relationship … to be unhurriedly explored together.” Hosea doesn’t have any of this naïve, sentimental, “Oh, God will just make everything okay.” No, he’s paying a price.14
Sanctification is Hard Work
What’s the application? Growing in grace in your relationship with God is hard work! 1 Timothy 4:7b-10, “train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”
Consider the beauty of God's relentless love, vs. 4-5
Hosea 3:4-5, “For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods.5, “Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.”
These verse are difficult to understand and a little cryptic unless you understand that the whole Bible is a love story, where God pays a price in His pursuit of a Bride for His Son.
Loving Anyone with a Problem Involves Substitutionary Sacrifice
To the one who does not know the story line of the Bible the story of Hosea raises a bit of a problem, doesn’t it? The whole idea is that Hosea is an image, an analog, of God. Hosea was in love. God is in love. Hosea has been betrayed. God has been betrayed. Hosea pays an enormous price to get her back. Where would God pay a price …? Wait a minute. Where does that happen to God?
Now by the way, right away I want you to realize something. If you love a person who has no problems … There are five or six of them in the world, and you should all immediately go after them and try to marry them or be their friend, because it doesn’t take anything … But to love anyone with a problem involves a substitutionary sacrifice.15 We Have Been Ransomed!
Hosea, whose name is “Salvation” ransomed Gomer from slavery, and in doing so he was living out the biblical drama of redemption, and prophesying through His love, of the love of Christ, who was also a ransom.
Jesus said in Matthew 20:28 “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Peter tells us the same thing. 1 Peter 1:18–19 (ESV) —“…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
Paul told the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28 – (KJV), “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
We were slaves to sin!
The reason we need the new birth is because outside of Christ, we are all shackled to our sins. We love our sins and will never turn to Christ unless he frees us. This is why Jesus said things like…
John 8:34, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”
When Does God Come Into the Marketplace?
How does God pay a price for us? Even though this is the Hebrew Scriptures, even though this is the Old Testament, the book is just crying out with the question … Where does God come into the marketplace? Where does God pay the price to get his people back?
The answer is in verses 4 and 5. It’s cryptic, because it’s a prophecy. Hosea 3:5, “Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.”
The ancient Chaldean translation has an added note. It reads:: “…they shall seek the service of the Lord their God and shall obey Messiah, the Son of David, their King” (Hosea 3:5, Chaldean). So immediately, the believing Jews were looking ahead to Christ’s coming.
It says there’s going to be a period of time (verse 4) in which Israel is cold and away from everything, but eventually (verse 5) it says, “Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God …” The relationship is healed. “… and David their king …” Wait a minute. David is dead. This must be a descendant of David, and it is.
Jesus is the Bridegroom
The prophecy is unveiled in Matthew 9. “Why don’t your disciples fast?” he said, “Do the friends of the bridegroom fast when they’re with the bridegroom?” The bridegroom? Jesus is calling himself the bridegroom. Everybody knew the bridegroom of Israel was the Lord himself, God. Jesus Christ is saying, “I am that bridegroom. But soon I will be taken away, and then they will fast and mourn. I’m the bridegroom, but I have come to die.”
There’s the answer to all the riddles. In Jesus Christ, God entered the world. He entered the marketplace. He clothed us, covering our nakedness with his righteousness, because on the cross Jesus Christ died and paid the price to buy us away from our enslavements. So when God actually has the audacity to say, “I’m like that bridegroom seeing the bride coming down the aisle, who wants to sweep her into his arms, and wants to say, ‘I want to give you the world, and I want to lay down my life for you.’ I’m really like that bridegroom …”16 Conclusion, Vow Renewal
Let me close with a question. Do you really have Jesus in your life as your spouse? Or is he just a kind of boss? If you want the experience of his love in your life, for that life-changing potency, then what you have to do is make your vow, or remake your vow. That’s what the Lord’s Supper is. It’s basically a renewal of your marriage vows. Say, “I, believer, take you, Lord, to be my Savior, my wedded Savior, and I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses to give you my all.” He has already given you his. Let’s pray.17
1 Boice, J. M. (2002). The Minor Prophets : An expositional commentary (31–40). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.
3 Martin Luther. Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings, Chapter 34, "A Sermon on the Estate of Marriage." (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, MN, 2012).
4 Ibid., 34.
5 PG Matthew, “Love That Will Not Let Me Go”. Online Sermon and commentary Hosea 3.
6 Keller, T. J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. "The True Bridegroom" (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church).