Second chances

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Praise God for his unmerited love for you, a sinner.

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Bible passage Hosea 2:2-23

Israel Punished and Restored
 2 "Rebuke your mother, rebuke her,
       for she is not my wife,
       and I am not her husband.
       Let her remove the adulterous look from her face
       and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts.

 3 Otherwise I will strip her naked
       and make her as bare as on the day she was born;
       I will make her like a desert,
       turn her into a parched land,
       and slay her with thirst.

 4 I will not show my love to her children,
       because they are the children of adultery.

 5 Their mother has been unfaithful
       and has conceived them in disgrace.
       She said, 'I will go after my lovers,
       who give me my food and my water,
       my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.'

 6 Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes;
       I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.

 7 She will chase after her lovers but not catch them;
       she will look for them but not find them.
       Then she will say,
       'I will go back to my husband as at first,
       for then I was better off than now.'

 8 She has not acknowledged that I was the one
       who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil,
       who lavished on her the silver and gold—
       which they used for Baal.

 9 "Therefore I will take away my grain when it ripens,
       and my new wine when it is ready.
       I will take back my wool and my linen,
       intended to cover her nakedness.

 10 So now I will expose her lewdness
       before the eyes of her lovers;
       no one will take her out of my hands.

 11 I will stop all her celebrations:
       her yearly festivals, her New Moons,
       her Sabbath days—all her appointed feasts.

 12 I will ruin her vines and her fig trees,
       which she said were her pay from her lovers;
       I will make them a thicket,
       and wild animals will devour them.

 13 I will punish her for the days
       she burned incense to the Baals;
       she decked herself with rings and jewelry,
       and went after her lovers,
       but me she forgot,"
       declares the LORD.

 14 "Therefore I am now going to allure her;
       I will lead her into the desert
       and speak tenderly to her.

 15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
       and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
       There she will sing as in the days of her youth,
       as in the day she came up out of Egypt.

 16 "In that day," declares the LORD,
       "you will call me 'my husband';
       you will no longer call me 'my master. '

 17 I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips;
       no longer will their names be invoked.

 18 In that day I will make a covenant for them
       with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air
       and the creatures that move along the ground.
       Bow and sword and battle
       I will abolish from the land,
       so that all may lie down in safety.

 19 I will betroth you to me forever;
       I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
       in love and compassion.

 20 I will betroth you in faithfulness,
       and you will acknowledge the LORD.

 21 "In that day I will respond,"
       declares the LORD—
       "I will respond to the skies,
       and they will respond to the earth;

 22 and the earth will respond to the grain,
       the new wine and oil,
       and they will respond to Jezreel.

 23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
       I will show my love to the one I called 'Not my loved one. '
       I will say to those called 'Not my people, ' 'You are my people';
       and they will say, 'You are my God.' "

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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Astonishing news
You can imagine the newspaper headlines in Israel – ‘Prophet marries prostitute’, ‘God tells nation: this is what your sin is like’. How would they expect God to respond? With judgement, with anger, maybe with a seven-step plan to clean themselves up. There’s judgement certainly (vs 2,9–13), but look at verse 14.

Who would have thought that, to a people who had turned their backs on the one true God and literally prostituted themselves with some of the most hideous gods that humans have ever made up (the Canaanites even practised child sacrifice), that God would act like this towards them?

And look at verse 19. This is God’s solution to our sin, not just to tell us it’s wicked and we should sort ourselves out, but to pour out his mercy and captivate us with unmerited love. He doesn’t just tell us that we should love him, he makes it possible by loving us first.

First love
So with these words of total devotion and love, he calls them out into the wilderness (v 14) – why into the wilderness? Because that is where they first made their covenant with God at Sinai (v 15b).

It’s not that different from what Jesus says to the Ephesian church in Revelation. Remember your first love: ‘Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first’ (Revelation 2:5).


Is your heart cold towards God? Spend some time now reflecting on how far God’s mercy went in Christ.

Angus Moyes

Deeper Bible study

‘This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ (1 John 4:10)

This passage divides roughly into two halves: the first is full of threat; the second, full of promise. Though the two halves are difficult to reconcile, the passage envisages a chastening of God’s people, resulting in a renewal of covenant relationship with him. The modern reader may find the language of the first part difficult and will wonder how it can describe the intentions of a loving God. Still, the second part emphatically declares God’s benevolent purpose for the people of his undying love.

In Canaanite myth, Baal was the god of wind or rain. His interaction with the earth brought about its fertility and caused the crops to grow. He was, in effect, husband to the earth. He most assuredly was not a husband to people. To Hosea, he was an imagined god incapable of a personal relationship with humanity. God, on the other hand, created human beings as the pinnacle of his handiwork and called his people into personal covenant relationship with him. Baal could only be a fearsome master to his worshippers; God offered something more akin to a loving partnership.

The problem was that the Israelites had broken covenant with the Lord. He alone had promised to be their God and they had promised to be his people. Yet the people worshipped Baal (alongside God) and attributed to him the success of their harvests. Hosea characterises this as spiritual adultery. Hosea proclaims that a period of privation would come so that the people would realise that their prosperity was due not to Baal but to the Lord. Ultimately, God would woo his people back into a close and exclusive relationship unlike anything they had known with Baal. They would no longer address their deity as ‘Baali’ (my master) but ‘Ishi’ (my husband) (v 16).

Robert Parkinson

Background to Baal worship

When the children of Israel first entered the Promised Land, it was occupied by a number of tribes, collectively known as Canaanites. Typically, each one had its own god, often worshipped on the top of a mountain – as near as you can get to the sky.

The name Baal means ‘Lord’, so there were actually as many ‘Baals’ as there were tribes. When they went into battle they looked to their own god to give them the victory, so a battle was ‘my god’ against ‘your god’. They believed that Baal demanded the sacrifice of what was most precious to them, and even sacrificed their children to him.

In the great showdown on Mount Carmel, Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to call down fire on their sacrifice, and when Baal didn’t answer they ‘shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed’ (1 Kings 18:28).

The dangers of compromise
In their wilderness wanderings, which we read about in Exodus and Numbers, God prepared his people for life in the Promised Land. He disciplined them, taught them dependence on him (Deuteronomy 8 is a great review of this) and gave them his law.

He warned them over and over again not to mingle with the Canaanites or adopt their ways. Rather, since the sins of the Canaanites had reached their limit, God commissioned the Israelites as the instruments of his judgement.

Seeking fertility
Sadly, they chose to forget all this within a generation. Since the Canaanites engaged in fertility rituals as a means to ensure a good crop (or so they thought), it was easy for the children of Israel to copy them, using the rituals as their fertilizer and pesticide.

The one true God
Their fundamental mistake was thinking that their God was just one among the many gods of the Canaanites. He was not the god of the land. He was the Maker of heaven and earth, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He had made promises to Abraham that would extend to all nations of the earth.

What is your ‘God’ like? Is he one among various cultural options, or do you worship him as Lord of the Universe at whose feet people of all nations will one day bow down?

A note on jealousy
Jealousy is an intense and powerful emotion. In humans it is often petty, vindictive and narrow-minded. Human jealousy can be an ugly trait. It easily leads to hatred.

By contrast, God’s jealousy is an aspect of his love. Whereas in human relationships a wife may be jealous of the ‘other woman’, God is never jealous in that sense.

God was never jealous of Baal. (He didn’t need to be!) The word ‘jealous’ comes from the same root as ‘zeal’ and ‘zealous’. In fact these two concepts are covered by one and the same word in both Hebrew and Greek.

Just as in a loving marriage the husband and the wife maintain an exclusive commitment to each other, so God’s jealousy is expressed in his commitment to his children, who are his ‘treasured possession’. We are made for his glory and to be fully human is to reflect his glory.

Other ‘gods’, whether Baal or money or fame or whatever, are no gods at all, and God will not share his glory with them (see Isaiah 42:8). Spiritual infidelity makes him angry, but he never, never, never ceases to love us.

How could it be otherwise?

Annabel Robinson

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

Jeremiah 13,14

John 6 


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  • Song: A love so amazing
  • Composer: Paul Oakley
  • Album: Newday - The Sound of a New Generation
  • Publisher: Survivor Music
  • Copyright: Copyright © 2003 Thankyou Music
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Marriage Song – Phatfish
Michael Sandeman
Copyright © 2011 Phat Music
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  • Rachael Hampton | Monday, 09 October 2017

    V14 I'd not seen before that 'wilderness' for Israel was the place of beginning their covenant relationship with God. No matter how far we go from Him, He will allure us in His love and let us start again. Jesus, the Bridegroom also says, 'I will betroth you to me in stability and faithfulness, and you shall know (recognise, be acquainted with, appreciate, give heed to and cherish) the Lord.' V 19 Amp. What a wonder is the love poured out on us and on all mankind! May our hearts we be faithful, and fully satisfied in You, our Beloved.

  • Ray Skinner | Tuesday, 10 October 2017

    Thank you Angus, Robert and Annabel for all your helpful comment. Western culture is so clearly under judgment for breaking covenant. Oh for many Holy Spirit inspired Hosea's to call us back to our true love.

  • Rae Bigwood | Tuesday, 10 October 2017

    I love the way that society is reflected in the family of Hosea. As our families come to know God better does the family change society. A friend of mine once said, "you will find that as you change, the whole street around you will also change." Has anyone found that to be true?

  • Angela Munday | Tuesday, 10 October 2017

    God's love for us needs to be returned faithfully by believing in Him, always. God constantly warns against following the world's ways that will only distract and deceive us. A sustained, healthy and loving relationship needs devotion on both sides. There may be trials and temptations at times that require our whole attention but in verse 23 our God says "Now you are my people" and we lovingly reply "You are our God!" Our God reigns..........

  • Jennifer Yohannes | Tuesday, 10 October 2017

    Has anyone read "Redeeming Love" by Francie Rivers? It's the story of Hosea in the form of a novel. Well worth reading.

  • Eileen Smith | Tuesday, 10 October 2017

    PETER (Oliver) -- how did you get on yesterday re the results of your scan? JENNIFER-- thank,you for the recommendation.

  • Eileen Smith | Tuesday, 10 October 2017

    -- have found books in novel form of Biblical characters can be very helpful for background information about life at the time

  • Peter Oliver | Tuesday, 10 October 2017

    Eileen thank you for your prayers. Doctor has referred me to the cardiologist for further treatment possibley a stent.

  • Teresa Matheson | Tuesday, 10 October 2017

    #Respond my quiet times have slipped. Term 1 and 2 went well. Term 3 went out the window, but God's mercies are new every morning

  • Lynn Libbrecht | Wednesday, 11 October 2017

    Thank you very much for keep this information.

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