God said to Hosea,"Take for yourself `eyshet znunah'."
He did not specify, "Take for yourself `zonah'."
The difference is important. `Zonah' is the Hebrew word for a woman who fornicates. It is a term that describes her behavior.
But `eyshet znunah' (literally `woman of fornication') describes attitude rather than behavior. The `zonah' may have made one mistake and be truly repentant now. The 'eyshet znunah' may still be a virgin, but she's not likely to remain one.
God told Hosea to make a choice like God had made. The problem is not the wrong she may or may not have done. The problem is the sin Hosea knows she will do when the opportunity presents itself. If we could hop into a time machine and go billions and billions of years into the past, long before anything in the physical universe existed, we would find God fully aware of everything any of us would ever do or think. There was never a time when He had not always known all about us, including every sin and every bit of rebellion against Him on the part of you and me and of all Israel. And yet in spite of it all, He loved and chose us anyway. There has absolutely never been a time when He had not already always been thinking about us with tender affection, in spite of all our wickedness and indifference against Him.
Hosea's first order of business is not to address Gomer's sin. His first actions are to choose her, love her, marry her, and become intimate with her. Dealing with her unfaithfulness is for later.
Let's imagine another scenario. An evangelistic sermon in a Bible-teaching church or synagogue is followed by an invitation. Some poor, hungry wretch runs down the aisle sobbing uncontrollably with deep conviction of sin. But suppose a spiritual leader welcomed the penitent with a hug at the front of the sanctuary and said, "There, there! Don't cry now. It's OK. Don't concern yourself about your sins yet. That's for later. God has had us prepare a big party in your honor in the fellowship hall for now, and He has some nice, new clothes hanging in the closet for you. Here comes the treasurer with a check for your financial needs. Yeshua wants you to understand that He loves you before you grieve over your sins."
Seems absurd to you? You say you want the address of that congregation to go be a guest there? Believe me, I'm trying to find that address myself. Yet God tells us a very similar story in Nehemiah chapter 8. That story forms the context of the well-known Bible verse "...the joy of the Lord is your strength." If you aren't familiar with the story, click here to read it for yourself now; then come back and let's talk some more.
Those of us who experience a lot of feelings of rejection and depression find it relatively easy to become remorseful about our sins. Yet our spiritual growth is often terribly slow. Why? Because until the truth reaches our hearts that God fully accepts and loves us, and has a good plan for us, we can't find the spiritual strength to really repent and change. But when His Grace towards us produces gratitude in us, then those filthy old lifestyles and obsessions are history.
In the same way, it's a basic pattern of biblical truth that the joyful Holiday of Tru'ah (referred to in Nehemiah 8, now called Rosh Hashanah) must come before the awesome Day of Atonement later in the month, that the liberation from Egypt precedes the thunderous Voice at Mount Sinai, that the night of rest is prerequisite to the day of work, that we love because He first loved us, and that every mature, giving adult had to first be a helpless, dependent baby.
This principle underlies the harsh word that Hosea must say to the People of Israel. Hosea is the family therapist pleading with the Lord's wayward wife, "Your husband loves you and always has. Your troubles are caused by your leaving Him. They will keep getting worse until you return home to Him. Come home now."
Nehemiah 8 "All the people assembled as one person in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scholar to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel.
2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the cohen brought the Torah before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Torah. 4 Ezra the scholar stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam. 5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" Then they bowed down and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. 7 The Levites...instructed the people in the Torah while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Torah of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the cohen and scholar, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had begun to weep as they listened to the words of the Torah. 10 Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." 11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve."
12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.
13 On the second day of the month, the heads of all the subclans, along with the cohens and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the scholar to give attention to the words of the Torah. 14 They found written in the Torah, which the LORD had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in huts during the feast of the seventh month, 15 and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: "Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make huts"--as it is written.
16 So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves huts on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courtyards of the house of God and in the square.... 17 The whole community that had returned from exile built huts and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great. 18 Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Torah of God. They celebrated the feast for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly."