After years of persistent infidelity, Hosea’s wife had finally left him for another man – not a kind and loving husband, but a cruel and heartless man who turned her virtually into a slave. She made no move to come home (perhaps she did not want to, or was not able to); but Hosea was commanded to go and find her, redeem her – and, despite everything that had happened, love her again.
It is almost impossible to imagine Hosea feeling any love towards the woman who had wounded (and was still wounding) him so deeply. Yet God still loved the people who were treating Him in exactly the same way, not only rejecting Him in favour of idols, but preferring the trivial trimmings of religion (the raisin-cakes) to a real relationship with the living God.
Hosea had to buy his wife back (even though she rightfully belonged to him), paying partly in cash and partly in kind. The total amount was equivalent to about 30 shekels – the price of a slave. Similarly, God would have to pay a ransom (a much larger one!) in order to redeem us from the clutches of sin (I Peter 1:18,19).
But it was not possible for Hosea and Gomer to return immediately to a normal husband-and-wife relationship, as though nothing had ever happened between them. If the marriage was to have any hope of being repaired, Gomer would have to change her attitude and her ways.
In the same way, Israel would have to undergo a period of discipline in exile, stripped of everything that they had taken pride in. Only after such a clean break would a new beginning be possible. Only then – if they repented of their yearnings for political and religious independence, and turned back to the true God and their rightful King – would they experience His grace and His goodness at last.
Hosea obeyed God’s command, although it must have been very difficult for him to do so. And through his actions we can see demonstrated for us the way in which God loves us. Now we also may find it very difficult to “love as Christ has loved us”. But unless we do so, how will other people understand God’s love?