For over two years from 2008 to 2010, the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team never lost a game. Their winning streak included two national titles and 90 consecutive victories, which passed the previous NCAA Division I basketball record of 88 victories, held by John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins in the 1970s.
Fans expect the UConn women’s basketball team to win. And as readers of Scripture, we reasonably expect that God will win. But in the book of Hosea, Israel is depicted as an unfaithful bride to her husband. And we never have the sense in the Minor Prophets that sin doesn’t matter to God. The Lord does not tolerate an open marriage, and His people will face consequences because of their sin. What would a victory for the Lord look like?
“Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?” These rhetorical questions, posed by God in Hosea 13:14, indicate His intent to judge Israel’s sin. It’s as if God calls on death itself to punish His people for their sins. He is a lion, a leopard, a bear robbed of her cubs (13:7–8). What hope can Israel have for salvation and rescue?
Yet even though Israel will suffer exile for her sin, the book doesn’t end on a minor chord of doom. Because Israel cannot return to God, as she has been called to do, God chooses to turn to her. He will heal her stubbornness and waywardness. This promise of hope doesn’t end with the story of Israel; it looks forward to the work of Jesus Christ, whose death defeats the penalty and the power of sin and whose indwelling Spirit writes God’s laws on our heart, giving us the capacity to obey. God’s victory is the triumph of His love for His people.
APPLY THE WORD
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul quotes our key verse from Hosea. One scholar says, “Paul turns a text about judgment into one declaring salvation.” Death’s victory and sting are destroyed by the death and resurrection of Jesus! Hosea anticipates God’s love expressed at the cross—where His righteous judgment, mercy, and love defeats our sin.