Spiritual Adultery
Hosea 2:2-5
Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband…

The individuals of the nation are exhorted to plead with their mother Israel, that she may turn from her adulterous courses, and so avert the doom which is otherwise certain to overtake her. Consider -

I. ISRAEL'S SHAMELESS PROFLIGACY. (Vers. 2, 5.) The sin charged against Israel is that of adultery, in her relations with Jehovah. Owing to the peculiarity of these relations, the sin was of a specially aggravated kind.

1. The people had withdrawn from Jehovah that undivided allegiance which, as the one living and true God, he demanded of them.

2. They had set up idol images (the calves), and had changed God in their thoughts to a mere nature-deity, like the heathen Baals.

3. They had gone after the heathen Baals as well. In form, the worship of Jehovah was kept up; in reality, idolatry had the sole dominion. This was their adultery. It was public and unblushing. Even in the eyes of the heathen, Israel was guilty of great wantonness, for the heathen were not wont thus lightly to change their gods (Jeremiah 2:11). The crime for which Israel is indicted, however, is not peculiar to that nation. In a deeper regard, it is the fundamental sin of the race. The soul made by God for himself has left him, and gone after other lovers. It has turned to the creature. It lusts for illicit satisfactions. Its dispositions are "evil and adulterous" (Matthew 12:39). Especially is this sin committed by those who, entering into a new covenant with God by grace, afterwards go back to the world.

II. HER CERTAIN PUNISHMENT. (Vers. 3, 4.) Israel's adultery dissolved de facto the marriage relation between the nation and Jehovah. Ver. 2 is the Divine deed of separation. Separation is followed by punishment. Under the Law, adultery was punished by death. This doom also, as respects corporate existence, was about to overtake Israel. But the figure in the text alludes rather to the withdrawal of God's good gifts - the gifts bestowed on Israel in her relation of spouse - with its result in the reduction of the nation to a condition of utter wretchedness and want. The "slaying with thirst" (ver. 3) is not absolute, since recovery is predicted (ver. 7), but denotes a state of extreme anguish, in which multitudes would actually perish (Deuteronomy 28:33, 34, 48, 65-68). There is here:

1. A reminder of the source of natural blessings. God could take away, because it was he who at first gave. It was he who gave Israel all she had. Hence the destitution to which the withdrawal of his gifts reduced her. "If God withdraws his gifts, the consequences are infinitely awful, because, altogether unlike the natural husband, he has everything in his possession; if he does not give anything to drink, he then slays by thirst" (Hengstenberg).

2. A correspondence between sin and punishment. What Israel possessed, she received in virtue of the marriage covenant. At first she had nothing. God had given her all. Answerably to this, she is punished by being reduced to her original destitute condition. Marriage unfaithfulness leads to the withdrawal of the marriage gifts. "The eternal and universal truth which, in the verse before us, is expressed with a special reference to Israel, is, that all the gifts of God are bestowed on individuals as well as upon whole nations, only in order to lead them to the communion of life with him, or because this communion already exists. If we fail to see that the gifts of God have this object, if they be not received and enjoyed as the gifts of God, if the spiritual marriage be refused, or if, having been already entered into, it be broken, sooner or later the gifts will be withdrawn" (Hengstenberg).

3. A picture of the state of the soul from which God has withdrawn himself. The outward is the image of the inward. The soul which has forsaken God - which God has forsaken - is solitary and desolate, burnt with hunger, parched with intolerable thirst, a desert. God's design in withdrawing the outward gifts is that the soul may be led to feel the deeper misery and disgrace within.

III. THE ONE WAY OF ESCAPE. (Ver. 2.) Repentance-turning from the evil courses. God is unwilling to proceed to extremities, though, if the sin be persisted in, he must. He gives here a final warning, a last opportunity. There is thus a limit to the Divine forbearance. The last appeal will come some day. Often, by the time it comes, we are so sunk in sin as to be past attending to it, While, however, mercy lasts, the moat abandoned may return.

IV. THE DUTY OF THE INDIVIDUAL. "Plead with your mother, plead' (ver. 2). Individuals are implicated in the guilt of the community. They have a stake in the general well-being (ver. 4). They have, accordingly, a responsibility in connection with national backslidings. It is their duty

(1) to separate themselves from the prevailing wickedness;

(2) to testify against it;

(3) to use every means to try to bring about repentance and reformation. - J.O.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts;

WEB: Contend with your mother! Contend, for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband; and let her put away her prostitution from her face, and her adulteries from between her breasts;

Jehovah's Condemnation of Faithless Israel
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