The Prodigal Wife

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it. — Psalm 139:1-6

Adultery

Do you ever feel like you’ve blown it with a significant relationship? Like you have failed one too many times and there is no way to repair the damage you’ve done? You ignored too many text messages, didn’t return that important phone call, forgot the lunch date—again, failed to send the card. . . . Sadly, friendships, no matter how significant, can be torpedoed by our own foolish or thoughtless behavior.

Marriages also may be irreparably damaged by the sinful choices of those who once pledged their faithfulness “until death do us part.” A husband and wife may overcome many hurts, but the pain inflicted by adultery often cuts deep enough to mortally wound marriage vows and sever the covenant they made before God and their assembled witnesses.

Chapter 2 of Hosea, beginning in verse 2, details Israel’s adulterous behavior, the pleading of the Lord for her to return to him, and his warning of what is to happen if she doesn’t. The utter foolishness of Israel’s unfaithfulness and rejection of God is put on full display as he describes her shameful actions and motivations.

Therefore

The Lord warns his bride that he will strip everything away from her and make her like a wilderness if she doesn’t put away her whoring (2:2-3). He won’t have mercy on her children because she has acted shamefully and has pursued her lovers, assuming that they are the source of her blessings. God then declares the first of three “therefores” as a result of her adultery. He will hedge up her way with thorns—frustrating her sinful plans and restricting her access to her sinful pleasures (2:6).

Do you see the mercy in this? God restrains his beloved from sinning to the full out of his love for her. Even though she was so foolish that she didn’t recognize that every blessing she enjoys comes from God and not her false idols, he is hedging her in to prevent her from running deeper into sin.

In Psalm 139 we read the blessed mystery of God’s loving, restraining presence in the life of the believer:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it. — Psalm 139:1-6

Sadly, Israel did not consider the Lord’s knowledge of her to be wonderful; Israel seems not to have thought about the Lord at all. Her plans frustrated, the bride decides to return to her husband, but not from a heart of repentance. She is still seeking her own comfort and nothing more (2:7). So God declares the second “therefore,” and warns that he will take away even her necessities, because she still believed they came from her lovers and not from God himself (2:9-13). He will punish her for thinking only of herself while forgetting the Lord, her husband.

Just when it seems that Israel’s unfaithfulness has cut so deep that her marriage covenant with the Lord will be irretrievably severed, the third “therefore” takes an unexpected turn.

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
    and bring her into the wilderness,
    and speak tenderly to her.
And there I will give her her vineyards
    and make the Valley of Achora door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
    as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. — Hosea 2:14-15

Be Encouraged

Israel is so far from being able to turn her own heart around and love the Lord her God that he must do it for her. She cannot change her ways, so God declares that he will change her. She has been knocking on all the wrong doors looking for the satisfaction of her desires, but God will open for her the only door through which her deepest longings and needs will be met.

Here we see the cross, when God tells his people that he will make the Valley of Achor (trouble) a door of hope (2:14-15). This looks backward to when sin brought not only tragedy upon Israel, but swift and violent punishment from the Lord (Joshua 7:26). And it looks forward to Christ taking our troubles upon himself at the cross, suffering in himself the swift and violent punishment we deserve in order to give us the hope of the gospel. The rest of chapter 2 continues with the results of Christ’s atonement, as God promises to make all things new: from our renewed relationship with him, to our worship, to the new creation. He will betroth us to himself forever in righteousness, justice, steadfast love, mercy and faithfulness.

Beloved, if you are a Christian, you cannot ‘blow it’ in your relationship with God, fail one too many times, or be so unfaithful that you sever his covenant of love with you. You cannot run so far from God that you escape his restraining hand of love. And Friend, if you are not a Christian, by the cross of Christ a door of hope is open to you, that you too may be betrothed to God forever in righteousness and justice, and enjoy the blessings of his steadfast love, mercy, and faithfulness. All who are in Christ are made new. All who are in Christ are forgiven of their sins and find their deepest longings and needs are met in him. And even when we do sin, because of the cross, our relationship with God will never be severed.

Pray With Me

Psalm 139 is so rich from beginning to end that it’s worth meditating on in its entirety with Hosea 2 in mind. May the final verses inhabit your prayers today and every day.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting! — Psalm 139:23-24

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