15 I will return again to my place,
until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face,
and in their distress earnestly seek me.
1 “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.
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.
3 Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.”
4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes early away.
5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets;
I have slain them by the words of my mouth,
and my judgment goes forth as the light.
6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
I have known many couples in my ministry. Some who have been married for decades and whose marriages were a testament to the durability of love and God’s gracious work. But, like you, I have known others whose marriages have fallen apart. I grieve for them. Every divorce is a scene of tremendous heartache. No one comes to a wedding, whether at Church or a civil ceremony with the idea that this won’t last. But sometimes sin gets in the way and destroys even the best things in life. As marriages fail there are often difficult words to be said and hard realities to be faced.
Hosea, the only prophet we have who was both a prophet in the northern tribes and from the northern tribes of Israel uses an extended marriage metaphor in his brief book of prophecy. He says that God is in a marriage that is falling apart. One of the two has been unfaithful. Of course, God is married to the people of Israel. These words are part of that bitter story. God returns to His place, cutting off the people, a last ditch effort to get them to see what they have done. It is a little like a philanderer coming to his house and finding his aggrieved wife has put all his things out on the front lawn and changed the locks so he cannot get in.
The people of Israel seem to repent. They would return to the Lord. He has torn us but perhaps he will relent. There is hope. Like spring showers revive the parched land so His love might revive them. But God’s response is wary, like a spouse who has heard all this before and has been disappointed. What shall He do with His faithless people? He wants their love not the baubles they imagine will win His favor.
Hosea embeds the answer to God’s question in this text. On the third day He will raise us up. No Christian can hear those words without thinking of that third day when Jesus rose and in so doing, He raised us up too, having slain us by the words of His mouth. Jesus has loved and known God and given His life to us that we now may love and know the Lord as the Lord has always desired for us.