A blog by Josh Humbert
Of all the assignments God gives to the men and women of the Bible, this may be the most staggering.
It is a command that simply knocks me back, no matter how many times I’ve read the words. It’s just one sentence but the force and implication of it are absolutely stunning.
The NIV says it this way:
When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”
just……wow. Hosea must’ve double-checked with God to make sure he understood properly.
“God, are You really asking me to go marry a prostitute and have children with her? Is that really what You want for my life?”
Yes, Hosea. This is the Lord’s divine plan for your life. Go.
A Showdown Is Setup
Don’t miss the second part of that command. Why is this what Hosea must do? “for like an adulterous wife, this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”
God’s people, the people He has made a covenant with, are forsaking Him and turning to counterfeit gods and worthless idols. They want to forget God and build their lives around material things that don’t even love them back.
In other words…they are just like you and me.
God is doing something about this. He has Hosea take Gomer as his wife so that there will be a showdown for all to see.
Gomer, the prostitute wife, is a train wreck. Basically a prostitute, she has the incredible gift of Hosea taking her in marriage. What a gift of grace! In Hosea, she has a man of God who will do his absolute best to love her well and build a life with her. Maybe she will turn from her sins. Maybe she will leave her senseless ways. They have a child together. Perhaps a corner is turned?
She then has two more children that are, as most scholars agree, not from Hosea. Gomer just continues on in her wild lust. The brakes have come off. She will not be denied her many “lovers.”
Gomer…has no shame. In Hosea, she has an escape-route to leave her life of destructive lust. But Gomer refuses to take the way of escape. She shamelessly continues on in sexual sin and has two more children outside of marriage while her husband and other child wait.
This is done in public. The people KNOW the ways of Gomer.
Lovers and Haters
These other men, these other “lovers,” are just using her. They are not lovers at all. The men Gomer runs too for her fulfillment actually hate her, for that is what is really happening here. She thinks they will satisfy, but all they do is take from her what they want. That’s not love at all, it’s deceitful hate.
In the picture God is painting here, this is to show His people how they are when they forsake Him. God cannot be one option among many for your joy; He is the only Answer. Anything else will not love you back. Not with the true, ultimate love that you so desperately need.
Created things can’t love you like your Creator will.
Further, God’s design here is to show how ugly sin truly can be. When we go after these false treasures, it is no small thing. It is no light mistake. If we belong to God through His Son, then our sin is something like Gomer’s ugly adultery. Except infinitely worse.
One pastor, Tim Keller, says it this way:
“What God is saying here is, ‘Until you understand the absolute devastation of having a person you love most betray you, be unfaithful to you, you don’t understand how I feel about your waywardness and about your sin. You don’t even understand your own heart and how addicted and enslaved you are to other things besides me that can never save you and will only drive you into the ground.’”
God’s plan for Hosea’s marriage and misery was to give a small glimpse into God’s own heart when His people run off in sin. As Gomer breaks Hosea’s heart, she is a small echo of your sin, of my sin. This is not something God can simply sweep under the rug. It is cosmic betrayal.
The Assignment, Part 2
So Gomer goes off in her unfaithfulness and endless searching. Just like you and me. But, then comes chapter three. And if the command of chapter one was stunning…get ready for complete bewilderment.
And the Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”
Or as the Message puts it:
“Start all over: love your wife again, your wife who’s in bed with her latest boyfriend, your cheating wife. Love her the way I, God, love the Israelite people, even as they flirt and party with every god that takes their fancy.”
Hosea has thousands of reasons for divorce. Now, he is the one with the escape-route available to him. He is well within his rights and reason to divorce Gomer and leave behind this unfaithful woman who is shameless in her sinful pursuits.
Go again. Start over. Love her again. Take her back.
The showdown God has set in motion is about to go down.
The Beautiful Bid
Gomer, the promiscuous wife, is still a train wreck. This is what rock-bottom looks like. She has run out of “lovers” and all is lost. All the promises of lust have become the lies of devastation.
She is up for sale as a slave.
She takes her place on the stage of a public auction where slaves are sold. People with money would inspect her, see if she has any use left, and make an offer. And, some commentators believe, she is stripped down to next to nothing as a potential slave would be at an auction such as this.
This is what it means to be ashamed. Where she was once shameless and without a care in her vain pursuits, now only deep shame remains. It has come down to selling herself as a slave.
This is done in public. The people KNOW the waste of Gomer.
The bidding begins. Perhaps she can’t even bear to raise her eyes and watch the proceedings. But a familiar voice calls out among the crowd. Where the other bidders may have been half-hearted in their bids, this voice is strong, assured, and determined. It is the voice of Hosea. He is bidding on her.
What must’ve been whispered in the crowds around Hosea as he was bidding?
“What is HE doing? Why in the world is he bidding on HER?”
“Doesn’t he know those kids aren’t his? Doesn’t he know where she’s been?”
“What reason could he have for bidding on her? She’s trash. She doesn’t deserve him.”
Hosea wins. He has bought her back. The price for her is the same as the average price of a slave. Gomer is his possession now.
As Hosea pays the price and finishes the transaction, what would Gomer be thinking?
“What is Hosea doing here? What does he want with me? Is he just going to extract revenge on me? Oh no. After all I’ve done to him, he does deserve his revenge. I’m going to really pay for it now.”
But amidst the cruel wise-cracks of the crowd and the snide remarks, Hosea pays his money and approaches Gomer. And perhaps she even cowers back in fear of the blow of retribution sure to come at any moment.
It never comes.
Instead, Hosea takes his cloak and covers her. With the crowd now astonished in silence, he embraces his wife and quietly leads her back home.
The Hope of Hosea
Gomer is now the one stunned and utterly staggered.
“Hosea still cares about me? Hosea still…loves me? How is this possible?”
And with a strong tenderness in his words, Hosea looks her in the eye and says these incredible words:
“From now on, you’re living with me. No more whoring, no more sleeping around. You’re living with me and I’m living with you.”
He does not hold her sins over her head. He does not extract revenge. He does not torture with silent treatment or overwhelm with an outburst of anger.
No, Hosea gently restores Gomer as his wife. She will not be a slave and she will not be mistreated. Hosea will build a life with her. They will start over. He will patiently wait for her as they work through things. She will be a precious wife to him, and he will be a loving husband to her.
God vs Shame
The point of Hosea’s marriage, misery, and ministry is not simply to show how great of a guy he was. This is all to reveal a truth about God. THIS is how God is.
God is so great and so kind; His love is wild and strong. His heart is so moved for His people, even and especially while they are lost in their sin. He pursues them in the midst of their idol-chasing. God is the One who lovingly redeems them at their lowest.
In the showdown of our shame vs His grace, God will always, always, always triumph. He will not leave His people on that auction block, too ashamed or disgraced to even open their eyes. His is the strong, assured, determined voice that calls out and pays the price for us.
But where did God pay the price? Where did He redeem us from our shame?
At the Cross. See, shame was what kept the disciples of Christ retreating and running as Jesus went to His death. Shame was when the soldiers stripped the clothes from the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Shame was heaped upon Him by the mocking crowd as they cracked jokes about His power.
This was done in public. The world SAW the shame heaped upon Christ.
And worse yet, He bore the shame of my sins. At the Cross, God put all the sin, all the spiritual adultery, all the ugliness of my wickedness….and all of the shame upon His perfect Son, Jesus Christ. Every single ounce was laid upon Him.
Hebrews 12 says it this way:
“….let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus bore my shame, He despised that shame, and He destroyed that shame. Forever.
He doesn’t hold my sin over my head or extract revenge. He lovingly restores and reconciles. Shame never had a chance. Jesus wins.
The Close Love of God
The life of Hosea can be hard to fully grasp. It is not an easy portion of Scripture. But what God reveals about Himself in those chapters is essential to finding the deep joy you must have.
Hosea shows us the fierce, jealous, love of God. This is how close and intimate and involved God will be. Hosea shows us One who will do everything to get back the one He loves. Even when there are ten thousand reasons for divorce, Hosea shows us a God who will not take the escape-route. God WILL pursue. He will win the showdown with shame. God will cover us with His righteousness. He will bring us back.
He is not a far-off God. He is closer than maybe you’ve ever even imagined.
“Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord Your God, and there is no other; And My people will never be put to shame.” Joel 2:27
“He died for me while I was sinning
Needy and poor and blind
He whispered to assure me,
‘I’ve found thee, thou art Mine.”
Thanks for reading. Your thoughts always welcomed.
***Artwork provided with permission by JTBA. For more, please visit: http://jtbarts.com . Very good stuff***