In the last chapter, we heard the Lord saying, “Lo-ruhamah” and “Lo-ammi” – thereby declaring that His unfaithful people were no longer His people, and that they were no longer recipients of His love and mercy. But there is a happy change in the first verse of this passage: “Say ye unto your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruhamah!” What a speedy change from the foregoing chapter! The “Lo” – which means, “not” – is taken off from the names of Hosea’s children, who symbolized the people of Israel; and now the Lord again proclaims them as His people (“Ammi”) who are beloved (“Ruhamah”)! What is the reason for this? They are called “brethren.” Yes! Jesus makes us His own brethren, by virtue of His work of redemption; nor is He ashamed to call us by that affectionate title (Heb. 2:11). How gracious of Him!
But we must still remember how the Lord pleads with His people, when they are persistent in their ways of rebellion. Here, in verses 2-4, the whole people of God are “the mother” who is being called to hear of her backslidings; for even after Christ was married to her, she has often run after other lovers. In verse 5, she is described as resolving to seek comfort and take refuge in carnal enjoyments. This is spiritual unchastity – a great sin indeed. But observe what the Lord says in verse 6: “Behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths.” In mercy and grace, our God hedges up the sinners’ ways with thorns and briers, to stop them in their tracks and keep them from pursuing their wild and reckless career; and if this will not keep them back, He will build a wall also.
Having been hedged in with thorns, the wayward spouse seeks after her other lovers, but she shall not find them; and then she shall say, “I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now” (verse 7). Here we have the beautiful result of God’s gracious dealings with His people. Although they have done (and still do) commit spiritual adultery with the idols of this world, yet He causes them to meet with nothing but sorrow, disappointment, and vexation of spirit. At the same time, by His secret workings of grace in the heart, the lost and wandering soul resolves to return to her true Husband. Jesus was, is, and always will be the first and only Husband of His Church. For although our poor souls are continually chasing after other idols, yet He does not cast us off! What unknown, unexplored, and endless mercies are found in this thought, for every redeemed soul to rejoice in!
“Behold,” says the Lord in verse 14, “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.” Oh! Was there ever grace like that of our dear Redeemer? When the milder methods of His recovering mercy seem to have no effect upon His wayward people, He will not give them up! A time in the desolate wilderness (spiritually speaking) shall accomplish that which an abundance of privileges could not induce. The valley of Achor itself – where Achan was stoned to death, after troubling Israel by his sins – shall open a door of hope, and songs of holy joy shall burst forth from the soul which had been given over to idolatry.
“I will betroth thee unto me for ever!” says the Lord. “I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord” (verses 19-20). Were there ever any words of tenderness like these? Every one of them is literally and truly fulfilled; for the Lord Jesus has united Himself in a marriage-covenant with us, His Bride, in a union that is never to be dissolved. And this covenant is founded in Divine justice and righteousness, which are as dear to the believer as Christ’s lovingkindness and mercy. Although Jehovah has not relaxed a single atom of His demands of righteousness and judgment, He has received a full and ample equivalent at the hands of the sinner’s Substitute! A just God and a loving Savior are here happily blended. But the joining together of the Redeemer and His Bride is not only done in righteousness and judgment, but also in lovingkindness and mercy. Sweet compassion, tenderness, and grace are the essence of His interactions with her – just as the Husband treats the wife of his heart.
When the Lord has brought sinners into a state of salvation, all manner of blessings – both temporal and spiritual – pour in upon the soul (verses 21-22). When He opens the windows of heaven upon the earth, there are showers of blessings, and the people are filled with plenty. The same is true in the realm of grace. When the dry and famished souls of poor sinners are savingly brought into an acquaintance with God’s rich mercy in Christ, their heaven is no longer as hard as iron and brass; for the Lord hears and answers the intercessions of His dear Son – and while prayers are going up, blessings are coming down; and the Lord shows His grace to His people. Such are the great and wonderful changes brought about by sovereign, free, and unmerited grace! It takes those who were strangers to the Lord, brings them into covenant with Himself, and makes them His own people; and they, in turn, are privileged to claim Him as their own God!
O Lord, we praise You for Your Gospel-grace and love that You show to us poor and lost sinners in the Person, work, and righteousness of Your dear Son! Amen.
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