The chapter begins with God detailing to his servant Hosea the words he is to say to the backsliding nation of Israel (vv. 2-13). Her sin of worshipping idols and participating in pagan rites is likened to adultery by the Lord. She wrongly gave to such idols the credit for providing her with all she had. Yet the good news for her was that her Husband still took his part of the covenant seriously and was determined to restore her. He would bring trouble and disappointment into her experience, but his reason for doing so was connected to her restoration.
The Lord wanted to win back her affection and one way to do this would be to show to her the impotence of the false religions to satisfy her soul and to fulfil her spiritual desires. They would do nothing for her when life became difficult. In contrast, the Lord can use such desert experiences to show her the blessings he can provide for those who return to him after a period of wandering from him.
God likens her recovery to the Exodus from Egypt (v. 15). The experience of deliverance from Egypt under Moses was obviously a high point in the history of Israel. In one sense, it can never be repeated. Yet it is also the model by which we can assess how the Lord restores his people. The Lord refers to the Valley of Achor, which was the place where Achan was judged for his disobedience of God's commands (Joshua 7:26). Although it was a personal disaster for Achan, it was a moment of recovery for the people as a whole and they went on to experience victory and conquer the country. Similarly, although the nation in Hosea's time would be judged for their sins, if they repented there would be recovery.
The Lord then uses several illustrations to depict the beauty of a restored relationship: there will be a peaceful environment (v. 18), there will be the ongoing enjoyment of divine love (vv. 19-20), and there will abundant provisions (vv. 21-23). God and his people will then enjoy fellowship together and speak lovingly to one another. These pictures point to the great reality that spiritual restoration is a foretaste of heaven.
The way the Lord encourages backsliders to return is beautiful.