The God who Judges and Forgives

 The God who Judges and Forgives

Hosea 1

“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sands of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered.  And 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.”


            Hosea begins with a foreboding message.  Hosea is commanded to marry a woman who would prove to be unfaithful. As a result, she would abandon her marital vows and pursue other lovers.  This provided a living visual of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.  Soon after the marriage, she conceives and gives birth to a son who is given a dark name, Jezreel, the name of the valley where Israel had many significant and violent events.  The name serves as a prophetic announcement that Israel has abandoned God, and as a result, God will bring severe judgment upon the nation of Israel.  

            After the birth of Jezreel, Gomer conceives and gives birth to a daughter.  God commands Hosea to provide her with the name “No mercy.”  In one of the terrifying statements in scripture, God states, “For I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them.”  To stand in the presence of the living God and have him announce that there will be no forgiveness or mercy is a terrifying prospect.  

            We often assume that God is only loving and that, in the end, he will bring salvation to all people regardless of what they have done or believe.  People argue that God will universally save all humanity.  But this is an illusion that rejects the holiness and justice of God.  Throughout scripture, God repeatedly warns that judgment is certain for those who remain unrepentant.  God is holy and will not leave sin unpunished.  Israel had continued to reject God and his mercy so that God would bring swift and harsh judgment upon them. No longer would he deliver them from their enemies.  Thus, he utters the words that should strike terror in the hearts of every Jew, “You are not my people, and I am not your God.”

            Nevertheless, just when it seems that all is hopeless and lost, the message takes a surprising turn. Even though the present generation will be judged for their sin, God does not reject the nation altogether. Instead, he will restore Israel in the future, and the future generations of the people will enjoy God’s blessing and presence. Instead of being called “Not my children,” they will refer to Israel as “children of the living God.” Instead of the wail of despair, they shall sing the cry of salvation and hope.

            To understand and comprehend God's nature, we must balance his justice and holiness perfectly and his grace and mercy.  His justice and righteousness demand the judgment of sin and warn us that our sins alienate and separate us from the living God, who is holy and untainted by sin. On the other hand, to be confronted by his justice is to realize that we face the wrath of God.  “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23, 6:23).  We are sinners who cannot be God’s people.

            Yet, even as we stand in the presence of God who is just and judges, there is hope, for God is also gracious and merciful. There is a way of forgiveness.  This forgiveness is not found in ourselves but in the offer of his grace.  To satisfy his justice, sin must be atoned for, and this was accomplished by Christ, who paid the judicial requirements so that we might be free from our guilt.  The only thing required is to accept the offer of his grace by confessing and acknowledging our sins and surrendering our lives to him.  Then, like Israel, we, who were “not God’s people,” can become sons and daughters of the living God. The statement of absolute terror becomes the promise of absolute bliss.


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