Have you ever done something so wrong, you felt as if there’s no way you could ever recover from it? Do you have something in your past that feels like no amount of time could ever heal? If so, you need to read the book of Hosea. It speaks of Israel’s disobedience and waywardness, but also the way the God patiently and persistently pursues His people.
Much of the Old Testament chronicles a consistent pattern of God’s people straying from Him, God patiently restoring them, then them straying yet again. What’s striking about the book of Hosea is that God uses very specific – sometimes graphic – imagery to give us a frame of reference in a format that we can understand. Specifically, He likens Israel to an adulterous wife. One who has left her home to pursue her various lovers and accepted the payment of a prostitute even though she had a husband who provided for her (Hosea 2:5).
Let’s stop right there for a minute. Imagine this was you; that you had given your vows to someone, reared children with him/her, then stepped outside of your marriage not in a one-time moment of weakness, but gave yourself up to all kinds of lewdness and debauchery with multiple strangers. How would you expect your spouse to respond to such betrayal? How could a marriage survive such a thing? Now imagine your spouse not only being willing to speak to you again, but responding tenderly to you and seeking to restore your marriage? That’s the picture God paints for us in Hosea: “I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. 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” (Hosea 2:14-15).
While there is an abundance of grace in this story, there are also some very important points to keep in mind. The first is that the picture of God reconciling with His bride Israel did not start with the words “I will drag/push/force her into the desert”, but rather “I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her”. The implication is that there is still a choice to be made, a choice to follow as God calls us back to Himself. Love cannot force itself on another, but God’s love waits patiently for us to get close enough that we can hear Him speak tenderly to our hearts.
The second point is exemplified in Chapter 5, verses 13-15:
“When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sores, then Ephraim turned to Assyria, and sent to the great king for help. But he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your sores. For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them. Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.”
When we turn to the world to try and clean ourselves up, it doesn’t work. God wants us to seek Him first, sores and all. Only when we come to Him in humility and acknowledgment of our inability to make it right on our own can we be restored.
If there’s an area of your life that you’re trying desperately to clean up, or if the stain is so deep you’ve given up all hope of ever being able to get clean again, don’t let that keep you from seeking God out for healing and restoration. He already knows you can’t do it on your own, and He’s patiently waiting for you to return to Him. Whatever it is, no matter how bad it is, God already nailed it to the cross when Jesus gave His life for you. There’s no stain so deep that the blood of Christ can’t wash white as snow.