When a spouse commits adultery the emotional anguish of the innocent spouse is extremely intense. The love story in this installment is no different, and this one has a huge twist at the end. In this story one spouse has been unfaithful and the other goes back and forth saying in one breath they will love them and restore the relationship, and in the next that they will divorce them.
Sadly, this marriage ended in divorce, though only after great effort from the husband to keep it together. In fact the husband even quietly paid for the wife’s expenses in the midst of her unfaithfulness, so great was his love for her! And she even had the nerve to credit her lover with supplying everything, when he did nothing for her!
To understand this divorce we need to look at the Israeli divorce law, given by God to Moses in Deuteronomy 24:1-4: “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she loses his favor because he has found something indecent or unacceptable about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and after she leaves his house, she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who first sent her away may not take her again as his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an outrage before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance.”
As you can see, God is using a hypothetical situation to describe His intent in this law, describing 3 failed marriages without any continued guilt. The law only had 1 rule – If her/his third marriage failed or she/he became widowed she/he could not go back to spouse #1. That’s it for the Israeli divorce law. This prevented (a woman) in this example who had been married let us say to Tom, then Dick, then Harry, say to herself Harry was a bad decision I think I’ll go back to Tom – that prevented marriage with ulterior motives and kept a person from entering a marriage with a built in ‘Plan B’ in their mind. Understanding this law is a must for understanding this love story.
The couple whose marriage ended in divorce is God and Israel, as described in heart-rending detail in the first three chapters of the book of Hosea. In fact, Hosea 2: 2 contains the only Biblical record of the ancient Israeli divorce decree: “She is not my wife nor am I her husband!” which made a divorce final. The Lord had fist said it in 1: 9-10: “And the Lord said, ‘Name him Lo-Ammi which means ‘not my people’, for you are not my people, nor am I your God.”
The Lord was the husband who provided for unfaithful Israel’s living though she gave the credit to Baal, as He states in 2:8: “She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold – which they used (to thank and honor) Baal.”
Remembering the early part of their marriage
But His emotions swirl and clash like waves on the sea, for He says in 2:14-16: “Therefore I am now going to allure (woo) her (Israel); I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her…and she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. In that day, declares the Lord, You will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’”
He divorced her, so by law she may now go and become another (god’s) spouse – and that is exactly what Israel did, serving god after god over the centuries.
He is hurting – He keeps going back to different prophets about His divorce, this time to Jeremiah (He also said the same to Isaiah and Ezekiel)
“Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under the spreading tree and has committed adultery there (offerings to gods). I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it. I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery.” Jeremiah 3:6-8
The twist: The Lord breaks His own law? Mercy triumphs over judgement
“If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again? Would not the land be completely defiled? But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers – would you now return to me? Only acknowledge your guilt – you have rebelled again the Lord your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me, declares the Lord. Return faithless people, declares the Lord, for I am your husband. I will choose you,,,and bring you to Zion.” Jeremiah 3:1, 13-14
Paul’s words of Romans 11:26-27 now take on a deeper meaning: “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: There will come out of Zion the Deliverer and shall turn godlessness away from Jacob. This is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”
Yes – the Lord invites Israel to be remarried to Him in violation of His own law. How do we explain this? Let me suggest a solution. The new birth. No one in the Old Testament was born again, which is a recreation of the human spirit by the Spirit of God. As II Corinthians 5:17 says, “If any man is in Christ old things are passed away. Behold! All things have become new.” Israel will be a new creation in Christ, the old is passed and forgotten, all things are new. He isn’t violating His law after all!
But wait, there’s more
In Hosea, in the midst of God’s divorcing Israel and His statement of longing to woo her again, comes a prophecy that one day Israel will say to themselves: “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us; He has injured us (they did it to themselves) but He will bind up our wounds. After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will restore us that we may live in His presence…” Hosea 6:1-2
The phrase “After 2 days He will revive us, and on the 3rd day He will restore us that we may live in His presence” has long been understood to be prophetic of the fact Messiah came and was rejected by Israel, with now 2,000 years or 2 days having passed, and He will revived them at the end of that 2,000 year period. This explains the Messianic-Jewish movement around the world in our day, their revival happening AFTER the 2 days. On the 3rd (1,000 year) day Messiah will come and restore Israel who will forever live in His presence. There is so much more that could be said, but I leave it at this…more next week, until then, blessings,