From Judgment to Grace

by Jacob Hudgins

smiling womanHosea is a prophet to the northern tribes of Israel. He will suffer in a peculiar way to deliver his message. “The LORD said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD’”(Hosea 1:2). His wife will be unfaithful to him—and he will take her back anyway—as a symbol of Israel’s unfaithfulness and God’s grace.

The drama also plays out in Hosea’s children. He names his first son Jezreel because God promises to punish Jehu’s house for the gratuitous bloodshed he made there (Hosea 1:3-5). His daughter is named No Mercy because God will no longer save them (Hosea 1:6-7). His second son is named Not My People to represent how God is finished with Israel (Hosea 1:8-9). It is clear that God is angry and is soon to judge the people for their idolatry and evil.

Yet there is a glimmer of hope. “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand 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 1:10). He reminds the people of the promise to Abraham of abundant descendants “like the sand of the sea” and offers them the opportunity to become his children again. The name of each child is transformed from a sign of judgment into a sign of grace.

To understand and fully appreciate grace, we must first feel the sting of judgment. Hosea’s wife Gomer must be shown to be unfaithful before Hosea taking her back will have the feel of something undeserved. These promises of blessing are not shown in full relief until we see how unworthy the people are.

This matters to us. It is the reason why Paul’s introduction to grace usually begins with statements of God’s judgment and our unworthiness. It is the reason he begins Romans with three chapters showing man’s sinful state. It is the reason why he stresses that “you were dead in trespasses and sins”(Eph 2:1) before discussing God’s grace. It is the reason why he reminds us that “we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another”(Titus 3:3) before explaining what God has done. We will never appreciate grace if we feel we deserve it.

God extends mercy to the undeserving. Do you remember what you deserve? Have you praised God for turning judgment into grace?

Last modification: Sat 10 Aug 2019