It may be the greatest love story in the Old Testament. It is certainly the most scandalous one. The implications this short book brings to us are heart rending and intensely personal.
The book of the prophet Hosea has intrigued me for years.
Hosea has some of the most provocative language of any book of the Bible. It begins with God telling Hosea to do the very last thing any respectable prophet would be expected to do. It begins with God’s command for Hosea to go and marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2). This prostitute, Gomer, bore Hosea a son which God told him to name “Jezreel.” The prophetic name of “Jezreel” means “scattered”, “judgment”, or “exile.” This son was a sign God would soon punish Israel and scatter the prosperous proud nation in judgment.
After that, Gomer had two more children who were apparently not even Hosea’s. God commanded these two illegitimate children to be named “Not Loved” and “Not My People.” And you thought the boy named “Sue” had it bad. These names signify the way Israel would be treated by God for a time because of its covenant unfaithfulness.
Then the prostitute leaves the prophet.
Not just to marry another man.
To be a slave to another man.
Let’s be honest. If Hosea were our brother we would try to slap him back to his senses. “Dump the slut!” would be our biblical plea. “Divorce her, you could do so much better!”
This love story is so ridiculous and far-fetched it is too good to not be true. No man in his right mind would subject himself to such treatment. We feel outrage rising within us over Gomer’s sinful disregard for Hosea. It is supremely unjust for a wife to treat her good and faithful husband in such a disgraceful way.
But our outrage is misplaced.
Hosea is just a man.
The real plot line is this:
God is the scorned lover here.
He is a good and faithful husband to His people. He has provided all His bride needs. He has done nothing but lavish grace and mercy on her. Yet His love has gone unrequited. Remember how God’s affections burn for us. How incredibly humiliating for the King of the Universe. His bride has played the whore to lesser lovers and despised the romantic overtures of divine royalty where eternal pleasures are found (Psalms 16:11).
I hope God would not follow my own advice.
For I am Gomer. I’ve played the harlot. My wandering heart has led me to bondage time and time again. Gomer is guilty of forsaking a man. I am guilty of forsaking the eternal King. Gomer’s not the outrage, I’m the outrage.
But thankfully, God is not done with Gomer and I. As if Hosea’s heart is not rent open enough already, God says go to your wife again. Abase yourself even more, Hosea. Buy her back from her slavery and willful rebellion. (Hosea 3:1)
So Hosea scraps together all of his resources and pays with cash and cattle to get back his wife.
Hosea is a living concrete illustration of our own relationship with God.
I’ve wandered away from Him so many times, without a second glance over my shoulder. I’ve chosen what is cheap and false over an eternally faithful Husband. My hasty indictment against Gomer is an indictment against myself.
Yet His love will not let me go. He buys me back. Not with shekels. With the precious blood of His dear Son. He washes me with the crimson overflow, and woos me with tenderness I don’t deserve (Hosea 2:14). He brings me to the foot of the cross again and again where He made His proposal. Where He offered not a ring, but His life. Where He stooped not down on one knee, but to the lowest of hells. No wonder the theologians speak so somberly of the “humiliation of Christ” (Phill 2:1-9).
Even the thorn bushes I get myself tangled in testify to His love for me (Hosea 2:6-7). Even the pain. Whether it is physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. I may turn to the right or to the left from His path, but He refuses to let me stray long. He’s relentless. His relentless pursuit of me will overcome my rebellious propensities.
We can take heart, for wandering worthless people are set free in Christ. Not just for a day, but for eternity. He will betroth us to Him forever (Hosea 2:19).
A glorious wedding banquet awaits us (Revelation 19:9).
There He will present us as a spotless bride (Ephesians 5:25-27).
No more sin.
No more shame.
No more doubt.
No more distraction.
No more sorrow.
No more straying.
For that, we wait in hope. For even a Gomer, in the midst of a self-induced captivity, can utter with assurance from a dungeon floor:
“Come, Lord Jesus, Come!” (Revelation 22:17).