The second time around
Hosea 3: God ordered me, “Start all over: Love your wife again.”
It isn’t hard to read between the lines here. Hosea married a prostitute, they had children, but she left him to return to her previous life. That sounds pretty cut and dried but I don’t think it was that way at all. What started off as Hosea’s obedience to a surprising command of God became a series of intense emotional experiences for the prophet. Without choosing to, Hosea fell in love and for a time it seemed things were going to work out. His wife, however, had a hard time settling down into a family routine. The day came when she turned her back on her husband and children to return to her previous life. Hosea’s heart was broken. Sadly, I know too many people who can identify with the story of broken promises and marriages. No one walks away unscarred by such a tragedy. Hosea, trying to cope, throws himself into his work. That helps him cover the pain. One day at a time, he begins to get over it. If the Lord’s first communication was surprising, his second must have left Hosea in shock. God tells him to love her again. That must have seemed like an impossible command. In the time since their divorce Hosea has carefully crafted a shell about himself, insulating him from the pain she’s caused even as he hears what she’s returned to. Now, God says Hosea is to emerge from that shell and open himself up to her again; not because she’s reformed, she hasn’t, but to reflect what God has done in his relationship with humanity. Hosea’s wife will get another chance, not because she deserves it, but because Hosea loves her too much to give up on her.
Take Away: The Lord loves us and reaches out to us even though we don’t deserve it.
A love that never gives up
Hosea 2: Then I’ll marry you for good – forever!
The book of Hosea is a book of extremes. There’s nothing mundane or middle of the road here as everything is at one end or the other end of the spectrum. Here we see powerful love and painful betrayal. We see the beauty of tender, marital sex and we also see the brutal, cheapening side of sex in the market place. In one place we see the anger of God as he declares the coming destruction as a result of their sin but we also see God’s mercy as he promises restoration. There’s nothing in Hosea that lends itself to a relaxing late night read before sleep. This book is an emotional rollercoaster. God’s people have betrayed him and, because of that betrayal he’s rejected them, kicking them out. Israel has committed spiritual adultery against God and God has issued a decree of divorce against them. Then as we’re emotionally ready to close the book on this relationship the tone of the Lord changes. He’s kicked them out and declared his anger with them and judgment on them. Just as I get my mind around that the landscape suddenly changes. The Lord declares his intentions to clean them up, to romance them again and ultimately to reinstate his marriage to them. The sweep of all this is stunning and I realize I’m reading about a love that never gives up. God is truly the God of Second Chances.
Take Away: God is the God of Second Chances.
These preacher’s kids had it hard
Hosea 2: Rename your brothers “God’s Somebody.”
I’m not a preacher’s kid, but I raised one! Hopefully, my son doesn’t feel that growing up in a parsonage was all that bad. However, I’ve heard some horror stories from “PK’s.” I’ve concluded that while some of those stories are true, some are simply basic “growing up” stories that could be applied to just about any family. However, Hosea’s kids have some no-questions-asked horror stories. For one thing, their dad gives them strange names intended to preach a sermon. Two of the three, in particular, get terrible names: a daughter named “No-Mercy” and a son who gets the awful name of “Nobody.” I bet those kids needed therapy! Every time the girl is called it’s to be a sermon warning that unless the nation repents God will show them “no mercy.” When the boy is named it’s intended to declare that this “chosen people” is on the verge of being kicked out and becoming “nobody” in the sight of God. There’s a ray of sunshine near the end of the first chapter and continuing into the second. As a person might look across the hot and deadly desert to the distant cool mountains, Hosea looks down the road to a day of restoration. One thing he sees is a day for new names. When the discipline of God has done its work, children, and the whole nation, will be worthy of new names like “God’s Somebody” and “All Mercy.”
Take Away: I’m glad I live on the “all mercy” side of this story.
Picking a wife
Hosea 1: He picked Gomer daughter of Diblaim.
Somewhere in my sermon files I have a sermon on the “beautiful, vivacious, Gomer.” Aside from this being the name of Hosea’s bride the only other Gomer I know of is the TV character and he’s about as plain a guy and you’ll ever find. I can’t help but wonder how Hosea went about obeying God’s command. Did he head down to the red light district and pick a wife? Did he already know Gomer from their childhoods and, maybe remembered a childhood crush he had on her? This situation almost begs for more information. Frankly, I doubt that Gomer is a lovely lady at all. Instead, I think she’s hard and brittle and jaded and rebellious. The reason I think that is not because I think all women who sell their bodies are like that. I think many are victims for whom one bad choice has led to another. Rather, see Gomer thus because in this “living parable” she represents the rebellious people of Israel. I don’t think that Hosea goes out and picks the prettiest of the lot. Instead, I think he picks the person whose most like Israel: hard, brittle, jaded, and in rebellion against their loving God. Obviously, such a marriage is doomed from the start. However, in spite of this oil and water marriage, Hosea finds himself bound to his wife by an irresistible, undeniable love. The reason for this is that, in this living parable Gomer represents Israel; Hosea represents God.
Take Away: The Lord is bound to us in love, but not because we’re irresistibly loveable.
Who is this really?
Hosea 1: The first time God spoke to Hosea…
The book of Hosea contains no preface aside from the opening sentence or two. There’s no wading into this pool. Instead, we immediately jump off into the deep end! The thing is it appears it’s that way for Hosea too. Here’s a godly man, minding his own business suddenly hearing from God. Having grown up in the ’60’s I loved Bill Cosby’s “Noah.” Cosby imagines Noah hearing from the Lord and then asking “who is this really?” If, out of nowhere, being told to build an ark was a strange command imagine what it’s like for Hosea when his first message from God is to go, find a prostitute, and marry her! “Who is this really?” wouldn’t have been an unreasonable question. However, Hosea recognizes the Voice of God and he responds, not as Bill Cosby might imagine, but in immediate, humble obedience. God speaks, Hosea obeys. We’ve hardly begun reading this book and before us is the line “Hosea did it.” If I push everything back for a moment, before plunging on into the story, I can’t help but marvel at Hosea’s ability to hear, recognize, and then obey the Voice of God even though what he’s heard seems highly unreasonable. Today, I can’t help but be impressed by that.
Take Away: We all need lessons from people like Hosea and Noah in learning to hear and recognize the voice of the Lord.
The living parable
Hosea 1: This is God’s Message to Hosea.
Having just spent time in the Old Testament book of Daniel it takes some reorientation to turn the page and find myself in the book of Hosea. Here I see that it will be 200 years before Daniel has his adventures in distant Babylonia. I find myself back in the day of Isaiah and his warnings of future destruction and here I find God at work, reaching out to a rebellious people in an effort to restore them to him and spare them from what’s coming otherwise. Also, as I reach the book of Hosea I find I’m now in the final segment of the Old Testament in the writings of those called the “minor prophets.” Of course, it isn’t their message that’s “minor.” It’s just that their books are shorter and more focused. All the books of the Minor Prophets together contain less material than, say, the book of Ezekiel. Hosea’s prophecy is called a “living parable.” As will Ezekiel in years to come, Hosea is called to live out his message. His prophecy is also a love story. The love he demonstrates for us is not some silly, “love ya’ man” or a shallow, “baby, I need your lovin'” kind of love. Hosea demonstrates for us the depth and power of God’s love for us.
Take Away: The Lord loves us with a powerful, persisting love.