Betrothed to the LORD (Hosea 2:16-20)

Hosea is one of minor prophets in the Bible. In the Scriptures, the prophets filled a crucial place in God’s ongoing revelation. These men, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, received the word of the LORD and then faithfully recorded what had been revealed to them. Much of what was revealed to the prophets was, no doubt, beyond their ability to comprehend (see 1 Peter 1:10-12), but the prophet was duty-bound to record precisely what the LORD had said, whether the meaning of the prophecy was understood or not. Faithfulness in communicating the revealed word of the LORD was vitally important because the Lord who inspired the Word knew exactly what would eventually be revealed and how all the pieces would fit together.

The prophets formed the bridge between the patriarchs, the giving of the Law, and the unfolding historical narratives of Israel, and the promised first and second advents of the Messiah, as well as the events that would happen in between these advents. The prophets serve as prosecutors of sinful man, declaring that all people have willfully broken the LORD’s holy Law and are deserving of His wrath and judgment, and the prophets were those who extolled the patience and the mercy and the grace of the LORD by proclaiming how often the LORD defers His judgment and, instead, warns of the coming wrath and urges the wicked to repent.

Thus, all the prophets demonstrate that the LORD is the author of Scripture. Who but the LORD would plead with people to repent while sternly warning of coming judgment? And who but the LORD could show His prophets details of both the first and second advents of the Messiah, and of the two millennia between them? And who but the LORD could foretell and foreshadow the salvation accomplished by the Messiah in His first advent? Scripture must be God-breathed.

As a small demonstration of how the LORD inspired the minor prophets, I want to turn to the book of Hosea and consider Hosea 2:16-20. Here we will read of a time that remains still future when the LORD will pour out His love and His blessings on His people.

Turning to the passage, we first read of a certain day in the future: “in that day.” This phrase, “in that day,” is used throughout the prophets, from Isaiah to Malachi, and almost every usage of this phrase refers to the day of the LORD, the day of the return of the Lord Jesus in power and glory when He will judge the earth. When the phrase “in that day” appears, we students of the Bible should immediately fast-forward in our minds to the last day, to the Resurrection and the final judgment.

“In that day, declares the LORD, you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer ‘My Baal.’” In Isaiah 54:5, the Scripture declares, “For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the LORD of hosts.” We should know that ‘Baal’ was the proper name of a false god of the Canaanites, but it also is translated in Hebrew as ‘Master.’ So, what does all this mean? “In that day” there will be a totally new relationship between the LORD and His people. Instead of a master-slave relationship in which the master punishes and oppresses the slave, the LORD will be a Husband to His people. Our mind goes to Ephesians 5:22-33 where Paul explicitly states that the Lord Jesus is the Bridegroom and Husband, and that the church is His Bride. In Revelation 19:7-9, we read of the marriage supper of the Lamb when Jesus Christ receives His Bride, the church. “The Bride has made herself ready (Revelation 19:7).” How is she ready? The Bride (the church; that is, all believers in the Lord Jesus of all time) has “clothed herself with fine linen, bright and pure (19:8).” I understand this to mean that the church has been resurrected and glorified (Romans 8:30), and so the church is fit to be the Bride of the Lamb. Another way of saying this would be “that Jesus might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:27).” So, Hosea 2:16 speaks prophetically of all these things. “In that day,” the LORD will be Husband to His people.

The language of prophecy is often difficult to understand at first reading, because the prophet uses figurative language, where one image represents another. Hosea 2:18 is a verse that is to be understood figuratively, drawing on other passages of Scripture that use similar images.

“And I will make for them a covenant in that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will break the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.” – 2:18

First, we see that this verse takes place at the same time as 2:16, namely, “in that day.” Thus, Hosea is still declaring the events of the last day. Notice that the LORD makes three promises in this verse. He promises that He will make a covenant (Hebrew berith), He will break the bow, the sword, and war, and He will make His people lie down in safety. Since it is the LORD Himself who makes these promises, we are certain they will come to pass. But what do the promises mean?

To answer this question, we will address each promise in order to discover its meaning. “I will make for them a covenant in that day.” Who is “them?” Although there is no obvious reference for this pronoun, the nature of this covenant of blessing dictates that “them” refers to God’s people. Since this covenant is established “in that day,” this covenant will remain in effect forever.

So, what is a “covenant” in the Bible? A covenant is a legal agreement between two parties that stipulates the conditions of their relationship. Covenants between God and man could be conditional or unconditional. In a conditional covenant, man’s obedience to the terms of the covenant was required for man to receive God’s blessing. In an unconditional covenant, God promises His blessing on a person without giving a condition of specific obedience. In this instance, the LORD makes an unconditional covenant with the beasts, the birds, and the creeping things on BEHALF of His people. Here, “the beasts, birds and creeping things” represent all the animals in the creation As in Genesis 9:2-17 when the LORD established a covenant of fear and death between the living creatures and man, so here through His prophet Hosea He is announcing another covenant that, “in that day,” will forever supersede the former one and will establish peace between man and the Creation. No longer will “the whole creation groan and suffer (Romans 8:18).” “With the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:22)” in the Resurrection, “in that day” there will be peace.

Next, “in that day” the LORD “will break the bow, the sword and war from the land.” Now, in this present world there is distrust and fear and hatred and malice between nation and nation and between one person and another. But “in that day,” we know that the LORD “breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two and burns the chariots with fire (Psalm 46:9).” In Isaiah 2:4, the prophet Isaiah tells of the same day with his own words: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will learn war.” Therefore, the LORD promises there will be a day when dispute and conflict and hatred and war will be forever broken.

Third, “in that day” the LORD “will make His people lie down in safety.” These words evoke the picture of a shepherd caring for his sheep. The shepherd leads his sheep through danger and brings them into the pasture where he makes them lie down in safety. In this verse, Hosea is telling of a future day when the LORD’s sheep will forever be in safety. Their Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, will watch over them and defend them and protect them. (Among the parallel passages to consider are John 10, Psalm 23 and Ezekiel 34.)

The blessings of this amazing prophecy reach their crescendo in verses 19-20 as the LORD’s promises to His people include His betrothal to them. The LORD declares that He “will betroth you (His people) to Me forever (2:19).” Note that, while in our modern American culture, betrothal is equivalent to engagement and nothing more, in the ancient Hebrew context, betrothal was synonymous with marriage. For the Hebrew, an offer of betrothal was a commitment of marriage that could only be nullified if there was gross immorality. Therefore, betrothal assumes marriage.

What we see, then, is that the LORD as the Bridegroom is making a commitment of marriage, of forever union, with His people that will fully come into effect “in that day.” The glorious Bridegroom has chosen His Bride and He desires to be with her forever. The wedding day is certain to occur, for the LORD is perfect in faithfulness and He has promised. We, as the Bride, can then have a sure hope that one day soon, “in that day,” the LORD will take us to His house to be with Him forever.

The LORD seals His offer of betrothal with five of His perfect attributes. He says, “I will betroth you to Me:

In righteousness (2:19)

In justice (2:19)

In steadfast love (hesed) (2:19)

In mercy (compassion) (2:19)

In faithfulness (2:20).”

The LORD is our perfect Husband (2:16). He always does what is right and morally pure. His decisions and judgments are always correct and are not tainted by any partiality. His love (hesed) for His bride is at once unchanging and unmerited. His love is given to those infinitely inferior to Him by His own sovereign grace. Our Husband deals with is with infinite mercy, fully knowing our misery and wretchedness and yet acting for us to deliver us and to save us. And He is always faithful. He always acts in perfect harmony with His Word. He always does what He says He will do. His promises are sure. His truth is steadfast. He never fails.

Do not miss the concluding sentence, for this is the most precious of all the blessings: “And you shall know the LORD.” To know the LORD, the great One, the Holy One, is almost beyond our ability to imagine. How can it be that a sinful worm, dead in sins, conceived in iniquity, with a deceitful heart and desperately wicked, a child of wrath, wallowing in the pigsty in the far country, lame in both feet and hiding out in Lo-debar; how can it be that such a one could be betrothed to the King of kings and could be brought to the wedding feast as the King’s cherished Bride so that I could know the Lord forever? Yet this is the promise we have in Christ, that “in that day” there will certainly be a marriage supper and we shall be with the LORD forever.

And so Hosea writes of that day that was for him more than two-and-a-half millennia in the future, and he writes down the word of the LORD revealed to him so that we believers can read of our future and can look forward with hope to the arrival of our soon-coming Bridegroom.

SDG                 rmb                 5/18/2020