Text: Hosea 14:1-9
“Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.” —Hosea 6:1 ESV
On the last Sunday of Advent, we reflect on scriptures from the Old and New Testaments about God’s love for us. God’s love undergirds the whole story of the Bible: creation, fall, redemption, and the ongoing process of restoration.
Hosea is an Old Testament love story—just not the kind of romance you might be familiar with. Essentially, God told the prophet Hosea to pursue and marry a prostitute (“wife of whoredom”), and then go and take her back again after she proved to be unfaithful in marriage. The same Hebrew term indicating illicit sexual behavior in this passage (Hosea 1:2) is the one Moses uses in Genesis 38:24 to refer to Tamar’s posing as a shrine prostitute in order to entice Judah. Hosea’s wife, Gomer, bears this label, as she becomes a woman characterized by sexual infidelity.
Gomer’s adulteress ways are prophetic symbolism of a people who have committed “great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” This is the first of a series of expressions in Hosea where God puts himself in the place of a forsaken human lover.
In this story, Israel had become a “luxuriant vine that yields its fruit.” The more God’s chosen people prospered, the more their altars were defiled. Their heart was “false” (Hosea 10:1-2). Instead of shepherding the people, their priests had plunged into full-fledged idolatry (10:5). Their worship had become vain words and empty oaths. They had forgotten their God (Hosea 13:6). God said, “The more they were called, the more they went away” (11:2), and “My people are bent on turning away from me” (11:7). The coldness of their spiritual apathy and the callousness of their infidelity were necessitating judgment. “I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs,” the Lord pronounced (13:8). Soon after Hosea prophesied, Israel was ravaged, destroyed, and carried off to Assyria (2 Kings 18:9–12). But this was not to be the end for God’s people in the land, as a return is promised (Hosea 3:5), which was fulfilled when exiled Judah returned from Babylonian captivity.
Hosea culminates with a plea for unfaithful Israel to abandon its idols and return to the Lord. “Break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12, 14:1-2). God assures them that He is greater than their idols, and He is greater than their failures. His love overshadows their infidelity. His compassion breaks through the darkness of sin and shame, exposing their guilt while promising them a restored future—“They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow” (Hosea 14:7).
It’s ironic that such a depiction of adultery and infidelity ends up contrasting the greatest love story ever known to man—“This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). This love has chased after you throughout your entire life, even in your most unlovable moments and most deplorable seasons. This love took the punishment of your sins so that you can be free.
Advent is a time to recognize that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming to rescue us from all of our personal idols. He intends to shatter our altars of hedonism and self-indulgence. He wants to free us from our spiritual apathy and lukewarmness. He wants to break up the fallow ground of our hearts and annihilate our narcissism. No matter how unfaithful you have been—the depth of your shame, or the guilt you bear—God is rewriting your story. It’s a story about His redemptive love, and a story so much bigger than your failures. As He pursues you and reminds you that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross has obliterated your sin and paid your ransom in full, make room for His love this Christmas. Let Jesus liberate you from every infidelity and every idol—every trapping of the world that promises fulfillment while delivering vanity. Make room for your heart to be recaptured by the passion of your first love.
Are you making room for Jesus this Christmas? Think about that as you seek to abide in His love this week.
Dear Lord, my life would look so different apart from your love. Thank you for the advent of your love. This week, help me to reflect more intentionally over how my life has benefitted from of your love and to consider how I can be more practical in sharing that love with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Questions for Reflection, Small Group or Family Discussion:
- What qualities do you cherish about the person who loves you most?
- How is God’s faithfulness to us an example of the way we should treat others?
- What are the “idols” in your life from which you should turn away?
- What loyalties, things, or relationships do you need to hand over to God?
- How can you show love and acceptance to someone in your network of relationships who might be in desperate need of forgiveness or affirmation?
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