In Hosea 2:19, the Lord speaks words of comfort and commitment to the nation of Israel: “I will betroth you to me forever.” This promise is especially remarkable given the context in which it is made. In the first half of the same chapter, Israel is under God’s judgment—it is a passage of disgrace, damage, and deprivation. But God will not forever forsake His people, and He promises a restoration, a renewal of their vows.
Hosea was a prophet primarily to the northern kingdom of Israel. He announced God’s judgment for the people’s breaking of the Mosaic Covenant (Hosea 1:2–4). In 722 BC, shortly after Hosea’s ministry, God utilized the Assyrians as an instrument of that judgment, and the northern kingdom went into exile (cf. Deuteronomy 28:15–68). In predicting the judgment, Hosea used a marriage covenant as a symbol of God’s covenant with Israel. God had been faithful to His people, but they had broken their vows and chased after other “lovers” (see Hosea 1:2; 2:5).
In Hosea 2:13, the Lord lays out His case against Israel: “She burned incense to the Baals; she decked herself with rings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but me she forgot.” But God remains committed to the relationship. Still using the language of a marriage covenant, God extends this promise:
“In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked. . . . Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety. I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord” (Hosea 2:16–20).In the midst of a dire announcement, Hosea predicts a future restoration of Israel, one characterized by peace, righteousness, love, and faithfulness. God’s grace and love for Israel are on full display here.
Three times in Hosea 2:19–20, God says, “I will betroth you.” The threefold repetition has the effect of intensity and solemnity. God means what He says. Despite Israel’s unfaithfulness to God (as illustrated by Hosea’s wife’s unfaithfulness to him), God has plans to restore the relationship to a place of blessing and abundance. The betrothal will be forever, and nothing will break the bond. The nation that had previously played the harlot will become a faithful wife.
God’s promise to Israel, “I will betroth you to me forever,” goes beyond forgiveness, beyond restoration, beyond kindness. The promise is an intimate relationship that overcomes the past and looks only to the future. God gives Himself wholly to Israel, and Israel will give herself wholly to Him. There will be nothing temporary about the union.
Jeremiah prophesies a similar time of blessing upon future Israel: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place [the land of Israel] and let them live in safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul” (Jeremiah 32:36–41). These promises show that God still has a plan for the people of Israel. These promises are still going to be kept. We can be sure that all God has said is true and will take place.
The New Testament uses a metaphor similar to what’s found in Hosea, as the Church is called the “bride of Christ” (see Ephesians 5:25–27). The Church’s responsibility during the “betrothal,” before the consummation, is to be faithful to Him (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:24). At the rapture, the Church will be united with the Bridegroom, and the official “wedding ceremony” will take place. At that time, the eternal union of Christ and His bride will be realized (Revelation 19:7–9; 21:1–2).
Praise God, His unconditional promises are not invalidated by the unfaithfulness of mankind. Israel was unfaithful and pursued idols, but God said, “I will betroth you to me forever.” We, as part of the Church, are also unfaithful at times. Our hearts are prone to wander. Yet God’s ultimate purpose to bless His people remains intact. We are held firmly in the grip of God’s grace (see John 10:28–30).
Even when we experience the discipline of the Lord, we are confident in His unfailing love. He has promised to betroth us to Himself forever.
“His anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).