Parable of Love

Today’s reading is Hosea 1 & 3.

Marriage is one of the most sacred and wonderful traditions we take part in these days, an incredible way to mirror God’s love to the world. It can be difficult at times, especially in the case of marriages like that of Hosea, but one of the main tenets of this form of union is showing each other unconditional love, imperfectly as we may in comparison to God. He sees fit to demonstrate this poetically and powerfully through Hosea.

For generations at this point, Israel has taken up worshipping idols and false gods due to the influence of sinful leaders, nearly forgetting completely about God. In appointing a new prophet to remind the people of Israel about their one true God, He speaks to Hosea and commands him to marry an unfaithful woman of Israel. Hosea obeys, marries the suitable Gomer, and the two bear three children (presumably, to the reader, the fathers of whom may or may not actually be Hosea). In an effort to demonstrate how God feels about his treatment at the hands of Israel, he commands Hosea to name his children “Jezreel” (for Israel’s unwarranted massacre of the people there), “Lo-ruhama” (Hebrew for No Mercy, demonstrating how God will show no mercy for those who turn their backs to Him), and “Lo-ammi” (Hebrew for Not My People, for God considers the sinful Israelites to not be counted among His people). Tough names for the kids to bear, but God’s point is made: He is not happy with Israel. But soon the Lord commands Hosea further: he should rescue Gomer from her sins, who is trapped in a life of sexual immorality. Hosea pays off her debts accrued from her behavior (15 shekels of silver and 110 liters of grain). Redeemed and freed from her debts, God promises that as Gomer and her children of adultery are redeemed, he will show mercy to those who don’t deserve it and be with those who were not his people.

The symbolism here is clear and powerful: God, who loves the church as His Bride, has watched them run off to idolatry and hedonism. Knowing how much it hurts to watch our own spouses struggle with sin and turn away from our encouragement and from God, it must have pained God beyond imagination when His perfect love was similarly rejected. But Hosea refuses to abandon his wife, even when she has abandoned her freedom to sin and hurt him immeasurably, paying the toll for her freedom from sin. In this same way, God has paid for our sins through the death of Jesus Christ out of pure love for us.

Reading through this passage though, after a while, what really struck me was how familiar Gomer’s perspective sounded. Even all these millennia later, the same problems the Israelites dealt with concerning sin still saturate our culture and everyone in it. Gomer’s marriage to Hosea was likely completely arranged without her knowledge or consent, more of a transaction between Hosea and her father. She may have had wanted nothing to do with marriage at the time, and frankly, was probably not that into Hosea anyway. Her previous sins remained in her heart into marriage, as she refused to leave her promiscuity behind, simply changing the label of what it was into adultery instead. Even as Gomer remained faithful and followed God, Gomer kept sinning and sinning despite the incredible grace and restraint being shown to her. Is this sounding familiar to you as well?

We don’t know how Gomer got herself into her debts, what we do know is that the amount required to free her was pretty pitiable. If she was held captive to comparably about $30 and a bale or two of wheat, whatever actions inspired Gomer’s debt were probably not particularly noteworthy at all. But even such a small amount kept her indebted and enslaved. How low and worthless she must have felt. But even in such desperation and sadness, when all hope within has disappeared and she was ready for help, her husband Hosea would still bother to pay for her freedom after all the heartache and agony she had caused him.

When we get lost in our sins and spiral out of control into our own idols and away from God, we can easily get lost and feel abandoned. Following our own paths towards our own desires can often lead this way, and correcting our course can feel impossible. We can feel forgotten, unseen, and unloved. But in Genesis 16:13-14, Hagar summarizes beautifully: ‘”You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me”‘. No matter how deep in our sin we may have gotten, God will never lose sight of us and will never leave forget us. To God, the price to pay for our freedom and redemption and our relationship with Him is so measly in comparison to celebrating eternity with us, He would pay that price without hesitation. We never have to feel worthless or unable to remove our sins as Gomer must have felt with her debts, for the Lord is always ready for us when we are ready to repent of our old idolatrous ways. I pray today that you would be ready to rid yourself of the weight of sins and instead run with joy and praise to the God who has already payed the way to salvation for you and us all. God be with you all.

-Ross B.