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The Love of God | Theology Matters

  • August 2008 Issue
Practical Theology

Hosea’s marriage to the prostitute Gomer was a living parable. Their strange union was intended to shock Israel into recognizing God’s faithfulness and their own infidelity (Hosea 1:2). The book’s portrayal of God as a jilted lover is as disturbing as it is poignant.

Hosea was not the first to address these themes, but none before had characterized God’s love in such explicit terms. The portrait of God revealed in the book of Hosea is no theological abstraction. He is as intimate as a lover’s kiss. Hosea’s God is the faithful husband to faithless Israel. Old Testament commentator David Allan Hubbard notes, “No one before had spoken so repeatedly of God’s love (‘hb) for his people, and no one had cast divine grace in the vocabulary of marital intimacy.” 

But Hosea also mixes his metaphors in this book. Although the image of God as a spurned but faithful husband is the dominant theological motif, Hosea also describes God as a father (Hosea 2:4). Both these images shape the New Testament portrayal of the God of the Bible. Jesus taught His disciples to address God in prayer as their father in heaven (Matt. 6:9). He called himself “the bridegroom” (Matt. 9:15). Elsewhere the apostle Paul compares the Corinthian believers to those who have been promised or betrothed to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2). The difference between these portrayals in the Old Testament and the New is not in what they say about God but what they indicate about His people. The Bible promises that the church will succeed where Old Testament Israel failed. The church will be presented to Christ as a spotless bride who has “made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7).

The only explanation for this difference is the grace of God. Paul explains the contrast in these words: “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3–4). The message of the book of Hosea is that God is faithful. The hope of the gospel is that through the grace of Christ we can be faithful too. 

For an imaginative retelling of the story of Hosea read The Preacher and the Prostitute by E.K. Bailey (Moody Publishers).

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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