COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 2:16 And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali.” (Hosea 2:16)
The book of Hosea provides a glimpse of the heart of the Lord, as well as the manner in which He works with those He loves. He will not tolerate His people remaining in sin, and choosing to ignore Him. Although He has created men with volitional capacities, He does not leave them to live independently of His involvement and influence. When Israel departed from Him, there were certain penalties to be paid. God wants His people to know that He will not ignore their waywardness. For Israel, that involved the decimation of their political identity. They were given over to the control of their enemies, and brought to a point where they acknowledged their waywardness, and confessed they were in a better condition when they followed the Lord (2:7). For want of a better term, I refer to this as “moral power.” That is, God is able to bring people to a point where they change their way of thinking – like Jonah in the belly of the fish, and David in the matter of his sin with Bethsheba.
Our text is the result of Divine working. The Lord has chastened the people, withdrawing from them His protection and mercy. He has then allured them into the wilderness, bringing them to a condition where He can speak comfortably to them (2:14). He has restored their vineyards, opened the door of hope, and brought them to sing with joy as when she came out of Egypt (2:15). All of this has been done in a way that brings glory to Him and refreshment to Israel. She was willing in the day of His power, just as the Psalmist proclaimed (Psa 110:3). Now we will behold the marvelous results of this working. Israel’s view of the Lord will change. They will see Him more clearly.
“ 2:16a And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord . . . “ Other versions read, “And it will come about in that day,” NASB “In that day,” NIV “On that day,” NRSV “and it shall come to pass in that day,” Septuagint and “When that day comes.” NJB
This is the language of Divine purpose. This is not a prediction, as those given by “the astrologers, the stargazers, and the monthly prognosticators” (Isa 47:13). Nor, indeed, is it the mere foresight of future events. God is not a Prophet, but the God of the prophets. The future events of which He speaks are the result of His own working – either of judgments or promised blessings. He is not the Analyst of history, but the Architect of it.
“That day” is nothing less than the culmination of God’s own work. It is a time in which everything has been worked together “for good” of His people (Rom 8:28), and the ultimate and unquestioned glory of God. Some Scriptural examples will confirm the nature of this language – the language of Divine purpose and working.
“And it shall come to pass IN THAT DAY, that the LORD shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria” (Isa 7:18).
“And it shall come to pass IN THAT DAY, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth” (Isa 10:20).
“And it shall come to pass IN THAT DAY, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing” (Isa 10:27).
“And it shall come to pass IN THAT DAY, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea” (Isa 11:11).
“And it shall come to pass IN THAT DAY, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth” (Isa 24:21).
“For it shall come to pass IN THAT DAY, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him” (Jer 30:8).
“And it shall come to pass IN THAT DAY, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel” (Hosea 1:5).
“And it shall come to pass IN THAT DAY, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim” (Joel 3:18).
“And it shall come to pass IN THAT DAY, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbor, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbor” (Zec 14:13).
The work that follows, although it takes place among men, is nothing less “the Lord’s doing,” and “it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psa 118:23). God will chasten Israel, allure them into a solitary place, and work with them in such a manner as to elevate their thinking. He will, in fact, enable them to see Him more clearly, and to experience a relationship to Him they did not have before.
A WORD OF CAUTION. Upon hearing such things, some adopt a sort of fatalistic view of life in which they become idle and slothful. They imagine that this guarantees God will reverse any unacceptable trends in their lives, and cause them to recover from sins they have willingly committed. There is, however, a complicating factor in these Divine dealings. The Lord can be so provoked by the sin of men that He ceases to work with them – as in the days of Noah (Gen 6:3). He can give up entire generations to their own corrupt hearts, not turning them from their wicked ways (2 Chron 30:7; Psa 81:12; Acts 7:42; Rom 1:24,26). This is not done without cause, and is in perfect harmony with the Divine nature. Further, there is no system of thought that can identify when Divine abandonment occurs, or when hope is still present. Finite minds are not suited for the analysis of God’s ways and judgments, which are “unsearchable” and “past finding out” (Rom 11:33).
This text is intended to be of comfort to tender and penitent hearts. Even though sin pushes people into a domain from which they cannot extricate themselves, yet where there are tender hearts there is the promise of a day when recovery and growth will be realized.
THOU SHALT CALL ME ISHI
“ 16b . . . . that thou shalt call me Ishi” Other versions read, “you will call Me, ‘My Husband.’” NKJV/NIV The word “Ishi” means “husband.”
The prophets spoke of an era when the relationship of the Lord to His people would be more affectionate than legal. It would be based upon grace, not Law. It would be a time of profound love and commitment, as well as joy and satisfaction. “Your Maker is your husband. For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the LORD of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth” NASB (Isa 54:5). Such a relationship is characterized by love rather than obligation, and willingness rather than heartless duty. The heart would be involved as well as the mind.
The concept of being married to the Lord was not common in Israel. They knew about serving God, being answerable to Him, and even fearing Him, but they did not know Him as their “Husband.” They carried about an acute sense of their actual alienation from Him, for His ways and thoughts were not their own (Isa 55:8).
Again, through the prophets, the Lord declared a time when that condition would change. “The land shall be called “Beulah” -- married. “It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,” Nor to your land will it any longer be said, “Desolate”; But you will be called, “My delight is in her,” And your land, “Married”; For the LORD delights in you, And to Him your land will be married (Beulah KJV)” (Isa 62:4 NASB). How different from the relationship dictated under the old covenant. Under Law, desolation occurred. Under grace, spiritual fruitage would be realized. Under Law, fear dominates, under grace love is supreme.
The term “husband” is an old testament word denoting the knowledge of God – personal acquaintance and involvement with Him. Paul engaged in a fervent quest for this knowledge. Everything else was considered refuse and offscouring compared with knowing Christ. “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ” NASB (Phil 3:8). In a sense, this was reflecting the effects of being “married” to Christ. In fact, in redemption we “become dead to the Law that we might be married to Another, even to Him who is raised from the dead” (Rom 7:4). While technically we are “betrothed” to Christ, yet our hearts are so impacted by the grace of God that we call Him “My Husband.” It only remains for the marriage to be consummated in glory. Until that time, we are making ourselves ready for the finalization of the marriage.
The “surpassing value” of knowing Christ is virtually unknown in conservative religious circles. It has been exchanged for prestige, supposed credentials, and the idol of fleshly enjoyment. But that does not change the realities of the Kingdom! The “ISHI” relationship is still available to those who will engage in a hearty endeavor to obtain it! For all others, they will be unable to rise above “My Master.” This, as we will see, is used in the slavish and trembling sense, acutely aware of a fundamental variance with Christ.
My Helper. As a “Husband,” the Lord provides help and sustenance to His people – something the Law could not offer. “So that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT SHALL MAN DO TO ME?” NASB (Heb 13:6). This help is not impersonal. It is not simply getting us out of difficult circumstances, only to once again leave us on our own. The Lord is our “Helper” like a husband who cherishes and cares for his wife (Eph 5:25-28).
My God. The capacity of “Husband” accentuates the personal aspect of salvation. God is no longer viewed in disassociation from the individual. Unlike the ancients, those in Christ can refer to the Lord as “my God.” “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ” NASB (Rom 1:8). Even a casual acquaintance with the history of Israel confirms the rarity of this expression. Only a few prior to Christ spoke in such a manner. However, since Jesus’ exaltation, everyone in the covenant speaks in this manner! The time of our text has come to pass in every person who is in Christ Jesus!
A Reconciliation Has Occurred! Christ effected a reconciliation between God and the world. That reconciliation is the foundation of our relationship to God. “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” NASB (Col 1:21-22). The day we were knit with Jesus in His death, we passed beyond the condemning arm of the Law. We were then qualified to be married to the Lord Jesus, producing fruit unto God the Father. That is what is involved in “reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18-19, NASB).
NO MORE CALLED BAALI
“ 16c . . . and shalt call Me no more Baali.” Other versions read, “And no longer call Me ‘My Master.’” NKJV/NIV
The word “Baali” means “my master,” or “my lord.” This is a Divine play on words. As is evident from the word, there is a reference to the idol Baal, a false god adopted by the Northern kingdom of Israel. As remarkable as it may seem, the people of Israel were bent on serving even Baal, the false god of fertility worshiped by the Canaanites. Ahab, king of Israel, worshiped Baal (1 Kgs 22:51-53). In serving and worshiping that idol, he “provoked to anger the Lord God of Israel.” In the time of Jehu, Baal worship was also common (2 Kgs 10:21ff). Wicked king Manasseh reared up altars to Baal, in defiance of the Living God (2 Kgs 21:3).
Some take the position that our text deals primarily with the rescue of Israel from Baal worship. While there is an element of truth to this, it is not the whole truth. God was going to take the word “Baali” out of Israel’s mouth, as the very next verse states. This is the explanation for the words of our text – “Thou shalt call Me no more Baali.” “For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name” (v 17). The very name would become as abhorrent to them as it was to God Himself. While all of this is true, our text heralds an even larger reality.
Under Law, Israel had a profound propensity to idolatry. It started at the very Mount from which the Law was sounded – at the very time it was being given. Who can forget the golden calf, an epitaph to Israel’s corrupted affection. How was it that they danced around an idol at Mount Sinai (Ex 32)? They were not noted for idolatry in Egypt. There is no evidence that they participated in the worship of Egyptian graven images. What caused them to change?
Law Is Conducive to Idolatry. I do not use “law” in the good sense. This is not the law written upon the heart, or that is loved and meditated upon by the godly. “Law,” in this case, speaks of a means to righteousness. It is a covenant of works, as opposed to one of grace. Such an arrangement tends to drive men to false gods. This condition exists because the law-principle alienates us from God, driving us into the realm of the lie.
When Law becomes the means of appropriating Divine favor, men resort to substitutes. Israel did, and so do those inclined to Law today. Under Law the conscience becomes defiled, excluding one from the presence of the Almighty. Without further elaborating on this condition, it may be seen among professed believers with legalistic propensities. They tend to trust more in routines, positions, and heritage (all of which are idols), rather than the Living God.
All who labor under the bludgeon of Law view God as a harsh “Master” or “Lord.” They tend to speak more of authority than of willingness, and of commandments than or promises. They are more prone to talk about obligation than privilege, and what we ought to ought to do than what we have been enabled to do. For them, closeness to God, and fellowship with Christ, are not fervent quests. They tend to hide their talents and pounds rather than put them into the spiritual marketplace for godly increase and glory to God. They “call” the Lord “My Master,” or “Lord,” but “their heart is far” from Him (Matt 15:8). That is the nature of living under the Law!
Whatever may be said of such an approach to God, it is not the way to realize His favor, nor can justification be found in such a way. The purpose for reconciliation is realized in closeness to the Lord, not distance. It is the means to productive affiliation, not a mere formal identity. Jesus made this known to His disciples when He said, “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).
The love of the Father and the Son is not a cold and formalistic one. This is a love that involves divulging the Divine purpose, revealing Their Persons, and showing the marvelous inheritance that is prepared for those who love the Lord. It is the kind of love depicted in marriage, where two become one. As it is written, “But he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit” (1 Cor 6:17).
The Lord does not want to be told, “For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow” (Luke 19:21). Not only is that untrue, it contradicts what the Lord intends. Such expressions, whether in word or perception, are the “My Master” of our text. The salvation of God is designed to replace that expression with the tender and thankful words – “My Husband!”