Imagine the courtroom. Imagine the joy. A wicked and guilty sinner is declared innocent by a righteous judge. How is this possible? By faith we the guilty are declared righteous through the substitutionary death of the Lamb. What a glorious thought. We are saved from God’s wrath!
Yet however great that might sound, the book of Hosea demonstrates that salvation is far greater than this courtroom scene. Biblical salvation is not just a past spiritual declaration that makes a sinner righteous—it is an all-encompassing salvation, spiritual and physical, in which God makes sinners the objects of His everlasting affection.
Hosea illustrates this salvation story.
The ten northern tribes had utterly prostituted themselves in the worship of foreign gods, building golden calves, erecting high places on every hill, and trusting in the strength of men. They had forsaken God’s covenant. Thus, God sends Hosea to declare His righteous sentence against them.
Yet instead of beginning with a spoken word, God commands Hosea to do something quite odd. Hosea is to marry a “wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom” (Hos 1:2). And though the exact timing of Gomer’s promiscuity is debated, God’s point is obvious. Hosea is going to have to live through what God is experiencing—being covenanted with a wife who was committing adultery.
After proving Israel’s adultery, God does what anyone would expect a husband to do: He explains to Israel that He no longer loved them nor considered them His people. Hosea also had to live out this reality, naming his first daughter “No-Mercy” and his second daughter “Not-My-People”, daily illustrating to the people of Israel the message: “you are not my people, and I am not your God” (Hos 1:9).
In fact, in the book of Hosea, God consistently inverts the message of the Mosaic covenant, communicating to the Northern Tribes that through their disobedience, they had annulled their relationship with Him. Thus, God was removing the blessings of the covenant and returning them to the state in which He found them.
The Lion of Judah promises to tear them apart, instead of their enemies (Hos 5:14). Adding that “He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins; they shall return to Egypt” (Hos 8:13). From Egypt God had called them and so to slavery they would return (Hosea later explains that returning to Egypt is symbolic for returning to slavery, and that their place of captivity would actually be Assyria, Hos 11:5).
The point: the people of Israel had ceased to be God’s people and God had promised to punish them.
You say, hey, I thought this was a message about salvation! This is dark! Yes, but that’s the beauty of God’s salvation. The more we understand the depths of our depravity, the more we appreciate the power of God that rescued us from of our damnation.
God cannot remain angry with the descendants of Abraham forever, because His compassionate heart cannot withstand it, and His very nature demands that He keep His promises. Thus, after rejecting Israel God says: “My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst” (Hos 11:8-9).
He promises that though He had cast them off, some day: “in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God’” (Hos 1:10).
This too, Hosea was to live out in his relationship to Gomer (his adulterous wife).
After Gomer left him and was living with another man, God then tells Hosea to do the unthinkable. Hosea must seek out Gomer and love her again. God commands: “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins” (Hos 3:1).
So this action was also symbolic, this time not of God’s wrath, but of the future restoration of all things (Hos 3:4-5). Though Israel had forsaken the Mosaic covenant, God still remembered the Abrahamic covenant, and had promised that someday He would regenerate and restore His people to Himself after their disobedience (Dt 30:6).
God was using Hosea to explain this future reality to Israel. One day He would “allure her”, “speak tenderly to her”, and “remove the name of Baal from her mouth” (Hos 2:14, 17). Why? So that He could say: “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” (Hos 2:19-20).
God had judged his people, but He had not forgotten His promises. He promised that one day He would forgive Israel’s sins, cure her of her harlotry, and lavish His love upon her forever.
So you see, God’s picture of salvation is not merely of a judge declaring that the adulteress is innocent. Because a judge could acquit an adulteress, yet want nothing to do with her. Rather, God’s picture of salvation is of a judge changing the heart of an adulteress so that He could step down from His bench and propose marriage to her, lavishing His love upon her for all eternity. This is the gospel of the Kingdom, the restoration of all things.
So when you think and teach about salvation, don’t truncate the message by limiting salvation to justification alone—include also the future realities of glorification. It is true that Christ’s cross reconciled us to God, and that is wonderful, but God is even more wonderful.
Now that He has justified us, He actually desires to spend eternity with us. News can’t get any better than that! One day God will fulfill all His promises, when we, together with Israel, reign with Christ in the New Jerusalem.