Gracious Cleansing of Israel’s Infidelity, part 4 (Hosea 2:21-23)

Did you know that this past Wednesday was National Proposal Day?  If you’re sitting, just waiting for something to happen, it is a day to stand up and go out and propose to your girl.

Like I said last week, the wedding bells are ringing.  God will reconcile with Israel, taking the initiative to, effectively, say “I do” to Israel, expecting the reciprocal response of an “I do” in return.

Let’s read this whole passage of God’s gracious cleansing of Israel’s infidelity and we will focus this morning on vv. 21-23…

14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.  16 “And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’  17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more.  18 And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.  19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.  20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD. 21 “And in that day I will answer, declares the LORD, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth,  22 and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel,  23 and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.'”

Verses 16-25 sum up God’s resolution with courtship, betrothal, covenant-making, exchange of vows and giving of new names.

So here at the end of this wonderful reconciling work of God with Israel, which will take place “in that day” (vv. 16, 21), which is yet a future day, Yahweh and Israel will be reunited as husband and wife forever.  This is God’s promise to Israel.

And they all lived happily ever after.  Well, they will, in the future.  Again, vv. 21-23 say…

21 “And in that day I will answer, declares the LORD, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth,  22 and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel,  23 and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.'”

Notice that like v. 16, verse 21 begins with the words “in that day.”

The phrase “in that day” recalls the prophetic theme of the “day of the Lord,” an especially common theme in the Minor Prophets. Each prophet views it from a slightly different angle.  To Joel, the “day of the Lord” is a terrible day, akin to a locust plague, a day of darkness and judgment, yet whoever calls on Yahweh will be saved (Joel 2:30–32).  To Amos, it is a day that Israelites (Hosea’s contemporaries) should dread, not desire (Amos 5:18–20), as it will involve terrible climactic judgment.  Similarly, Malachi asks, “Who can endure the day of his coming?” (Mal. 3:2), implying that it is a day to be dreaded. Zephaniah foresees a day so severe that nothing will survive (Zeph. 1:2–18).

In this chapter of Hosea, however, the focus is on positive aspects of that day.  We read of a future time of wedded bliss between Israel and the Lord.  A renewed marriage contract is envisioned that will last forever.

If vv. 16-20 picture the betrothal of Israel to Yahweh, vv. 21-23 depict the consummation, in which Israel becomes Yahweh’s.

Notice here at the end of chapter 2 that all the judgments against the children of Gomer in chapter 1, will be reversed.  Jezreel, instead of being scattered (as in exile), will be sown (v. 23) in the land to remain there.  God will show mercy on Lo Ruhammah, little “No Mercy” and will call those who were no longer God’s people “My people” and they will respond “You are my God.”

In short, the judgments symbolized in the names of Hosea’s three children (vv. 22–23) are outstripped by the restored glories the Lord will give. Truly this is a God “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6).

David Murray calls these tear-drying, heart-rejoicing, dream fulfilling words of hope.  They echo the words of the Song of Songs, “I am my beloved’s and he is mine.”  Something of the fullness of Israel’s experience may be reflected in the grand Christian hymn by Wade Robinson, “In a love, which cannot cease, I am His and He is mine.”

But let’s go back to verse 21.  What is all this “answering” that’s going on in vv. 21-22?

God will answer the cries of heaven, and it will rain again.  The rain will answer the need of the land, and it will be productive again.  The earth will answer the need of grain and oil, and they will flourish again.

Creation, though majestic and powerful, always obeys the will of its Master.  Derek Kidner notes that “the world is a single, close-knit composition, intelligible in principle.  And it does not make the blunder of exalting that system by denying its fount and origin.  So we are not left with a mechanistic world on the one hand, nor with a God who keeps us guessing on the other, but with a world we can explore and a God we can trust and serve responsibly within it.”

This chain of giving from heaven to earth encourages Israel to trace the links all the way back to God.  The success of every request to supply need encourages Israel to bring her own requests to God.

For too long Israel’s great sin was the worship of Baal, the heathen god of fertility.  They prayed to him for fruitful fields and also attributed the results to this idol.  For too long, God would say, “I don’t hear you.”  Israel failed to bring their requests and their thanks to Him.  He did not hear them.  As He waited over Israel, listening—nothing.  Nothing but deafening silence. For this, Israel was to be judged.

But “in that day” God would hear.  In that day she would forget about Baal and know Yahweh.  And in that day God will respond with all the blessings He had promised to Abraham.

The mention of “heavens” and “earth” show that ultimately this is not merely a national restoration, but the whole universe will be restored (Rev. 21:1).

In speaking to the earth, Israel’s former difficulties will be reversed: grain, wine, and oil, which had once been taken away (vv. 5, 8-9) will be replenished.  When our relationship with God is where it is supposed to be, God abundantly supplies and pours out blessings upon us.

Has God been hovering over your life and hearing nothing?  He is listening but saying, “I don’t hear.”  “I don’t hear prayer for daily bread.  I don’t hear thanks.”  You are attributing your blessings to your own strength, to luck, or to sheer coincidence.  You are patting yourself on your back rather than praising God with your lips.  The golden chain of prayer, providence, and praise has broken down.

But God is saying, “I will hear.” He is coming to break your Baal.  When it lies shattered before you, you begin to look heavenward, prayer is stuttered and stammered heavenward, and heaven replies, “Now I hear. And you will be heard.”

Notice once again the “I will” statements of verse 23.

23 and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.'”

Restoration is not based upon Israel’s efforts, but God’s determined actions.

“Jezreel” (“God Plants” or “God Sows”) here personifies the nation of Israel as a whole, though its area was also the traditional “breadbasket” of the Northern Kingdom.  Israel in the past had cried to Baal, the Canaanite god of rain and fertility, but he had not helped.

Biblical Assyria was at its peak during the time of Jonah, just before the fall of Israel in 722BC (see Jonah 1:1).  In 733 BC, Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria invaded Israel and captured Galilee (see 2 Kings 15:29).  Two years later, he captured Damascus and killed King Rezin of Syria.  In 724BC, King Shalmaneser V of Assyria laid seige to Samaria, and Israel fell to the Assyrians two years later (see 2 Kings 17:5-6).  They were assimilated into far-flung corners of the Assyrian Empire, literally “scattered abroad.”

But in that day, having returned to the Lord by responding to His wooing, the Israelites would then appeal to Him as the true God of fertility, and He would respond by sending rain.  And they would again by sown into the land.

“I will not have mercy” are the most terrifying words a sinner can hear from the mouth of the Lord.  These words will destroy the souls of the unrepentant sinner on the Day of Judgment.  These words will echo round the chambers of hell forever: “I will not have mercy.  And who can argue with them?

Those who spend their earthly days saying, “I don’t want mercy,” can hardly complain when at the end of their days God grants them their request eternally, “You didn’t want mercy, and so you will not have mercy.” These words dash every dream and quash every hope, “I will not have mercy.” Oh, mercy-spurning sinner, will this be your death-sentence?

But here is hope, despairing soul.  Israel was just like you; she refused mercy time and time again.  She was judged by the removal of mercy in foreign exile (Hos. 1:6).  But God will look down in pity on her merciless condition and say, “I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy.”  What a turning point!  What tear-drying, heart-rejoicing, dream-fulfilling words of hope!

Go to the Lord and say, “I have not obtained mercy because I did not need nor want mercy.  But now I desperately need it and earnestly want it.  I abandon all my imagined merit.  Oh Lord, be merciful to me, the sinner.”

And wait, what do you hear?   Can it be, “I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy”?

And dear Christian of many years, recall what turned your life around.  It wasn’t your merit or will; it was God’s mercy and God’s will.  It was when He said—oh, blessed moment—“I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy.”

Matthew Henry comments: “God’s mercy must not be despaired of anywhere on this side hell.”

In the book of Romans Paul struggles with how it can be that his beloved people have largely abandoned the salvation provided for them, while the barbarians and profane peoples who cared nothing for God—and were his enemies in times past by plundering and devastating the people of the covenant—are now taking Jesus as their own and enjoying a salvation never imagined or envisioned.  Paul’s was an upside-down world, where those destined for glory found judgment, while those destined for judgment found glory.

Paul explains this by citing the book of Hosea, in which those who were not God’s people now are, while those who were his people no longer are:

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea,

“ Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’

and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”

“ And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’

there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” (Rom. 9:22–26)

As Paul goes on to say, the Gentiles experience such things because they have faith in Jesus (Rom. 9:30–33).  It is only through him that we can know the Lord, enter into relationship with him, and boldly proclaim, “You are my God!”

So we can see that God is not merely addressing ancient Israel here, but also us.  These things constitute “the grace” as 1 Peter 1:10 puts it “that was to be yours.”

God offers to you and me a deep, interpersonal relationship that is mirrored in the deepest, most intimate relationship we know in this life—that of husband and wife.  God has declared Himself, reconciling Himself to us through Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:18-20 says…

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

In the beginning, Adam and Eve and God had perfect, genuine fellowship.  But Adam and Eve rebelled against God, turning their backs on Him.  In response, God, whose eyes are too pure to behold sin, turned away from us.

Isaiah 59:2 says

2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

But God took the first step, sending His Son Jesus Christ to become the satisfaction for our sins.  He died in our place so that God could look upon us in love.  But just because Jesus died on the cross doesn’t mean we are forgiven unless we turn back to God, repenting of our sins (asking His forgiveness) and believing that Jesus’ death on the cross was both necessary and sufficient for me.

That is why Paul, and Hosea, are urging, “Be reconciled to God.”

Our culture of identity politics and intersectionality emphasizes all the differences between people.  But in God’s eyes, there is only one primary difference: “My people” and “Not my people.”  That’s it, just two categories, two simple, but vital, differences.

Here, Yahweh will woo Israel, declare Himself her husband, and she will respond, “You are my God!”  What a bold declaration, like a wedding vow, “I take you to be my husband.”

How about you?  Do you say this? If He owns you as His, will you be ashamed or hesitant to own Him as yours?

He says to them, “Thou art my people, whom I will own and bless, protect and provide for;’’ and they shall say, “Thou art my God, whom I will serve and worship, and to whose honour I will be entirely and for ever devoted.’’ (Matthew Henry)

“Not mercied” name reversed without any response; but “not my people’s” name-change calls for an answer.  Israel will boldly and gladly embrace “You are my God”; what about you?

To affirm that Yahweh was their God is to confess that He is their Savior, to submit to Him as their only King, to worship Him as the One Who alone is worship, and to awaken the truth that they had once rejected.

So the latter part of this chapter proclaims the mind-blowing truth that the overwhelming desire of Yahweh is not to destroy those who reject or turn from Him, but for their redemption and restoration.  Yahweh had embarked upon an endless quest to win Israel to Himself, just as Jesus came to seek and save the lost.

That was good news in Jesus’ day; it is good news for us today.

Published by

Lamar Austin

I've graduated from Citadel Bible College in Ozark, Arkansas, with a B. A. Then got my M. Div. and Th. M. at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD. I finished with a D. Min. degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, but keep on learning. I pastored at Chinese Christian Church of Greater Washington, D. C., was on staff at East Evangelical Free Church in Wichita, KS, tried to plant an EFC in Little Rock, before moving back home to Mena, where I now pastor my home church, Grace Bible Church

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