The God of Israel having pronounced judgment upon his adulterous wife says
It is a word which should not be in this place. It is a word of miracle; it is a marvel, a wonderous act of God; a lightning bolt of grace from beyond the creation. It is a word which is inexplicable other than as the descent of grace and mercy, undeserved and unexpected.
We all know how stories work: there is a problem; there is a resolution. In Hosea, there is a problem; the wife is unfaithful. She has had the best of husbands; she can have no complaint.
Her husband found unlovely: she was a miserable slave in Egypt. She had nothing to offer. She was not seeking the Lord. Still her husband, faithful to a promise he had made hundreds of years before, sought out Israel. In an overwhelming display of power and majesty, the Lord rescued Israel from her taskmaster.
To gain Israel, God did what Israel could not do; God did what no force on earth could do. God destroyed the power of Egypt, the Lord broke the arm of the most powerful nation and ruler on the planet. God humiliated the gods of Egypt. Her husband having rescued her from Egypt prepared a place for his new bride. He drove out the nations and gave her a land flowing with milk and honey.
Her husband remained utterly faithful, unchanging in his goodness. He never varied from the least promise. Yet Israel proved herself again and again unfaithful. She showed herself unfaithful before she even entered the land. She danced about a golden calf just after she entered into covenant with the Lord of Heaven and Earth. It is as if she cheated on her husband on their wedding night.
And for hundreds of years she again and again strayed, denying her marriage, denying her covenant and chasing after gods who are no god. All the while, her maker, her creator and husband did her good.
Her adultery was inexplicable; yet a madness gripped Israel. Her children were monsters: she was married to the best of all husbands and yet claimed demons as the source of good.
And so, as we read in Hosea, God finally pronounces judgment upon his wicked bride. God condemns the wife whom he loved – unlovely as she was. A husband with whom she could find no fault.
God says, he will have no mercy upon her children; he will hedge up her way with thorns; he will put an end to her mirth; he will “punish her for the feats days of the Baals”. He will punish her, because she “forgot me, declares the LORD”.
This is the end, the resolution of the problem. The wife has rejected the marriage; the husband has sent her away. This is the end promised by God in the Covenant. If Israel rejects the Covenant, there will be a curse. And now the curse has come.
This is the end of the story: it is a sad end. The marriage which began in a rescue ends in a rejection. This is the end of the movie, the credits role.
But here we read the word
There is no “therefore” at the end. But not just “therefore” – next is the word “behold”. There really is no good English word for the Hebrew. The Hebrew word is used to introduce a marvel, a miracle. But no one says, “Behold”. Maybe if one shouted “Look!” and pointed we could get the idea. The word means the next thing will be something no one could expect.
1 Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
2 For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.
3 Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.
12 The wicked plots against the righteous
and gnashes his teeth at him,
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that his day is coming.
14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.
16 Better is the little that the righteous has
than the abundance of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the LORD upholds the righteous.
18 The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will remain forever;
19 they are not put to shame in evil times;
in the days of famine they have abundance.
20 But the wicked will perish;
the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
21 The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
but the righteous is generous and gives;
22 for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land,
but those cursed by him shall be cut off.
23 The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the LORD upholds his hand.
25 I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his children begging for bread.
26 He is ever lending generously,
and his children become a blessing.
27 Turn away from evil and do good;
so shall you dwell forever.
28 For the LORD loves justice;
he will not forsake his saints.
They are preserved forever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29 The righteous shall inherit the land
and dwell upon it forever.
30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks justice.
31 The law of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not slip.
32 The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33 The LORD will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.
34 Wait for the LORD and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36 But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
though I sought him, he could not be found.
37 Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace.
38 But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the future of the wicked shall be cut off.
39 The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40 The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.