Sometimes the way I read my Bible is a little delusional.
Take, for example, the story of Hosea. I used to love that story. God tells his prophet Hosea – a spiritual leader, one of those “church guys” – to go out and marry a prostitute. Not a reformed and repentant prostitute either; he is supposed to go up to some street-walker and take her into his home. I can only imagine what would happen today to the church where the pastor spontaneously marries a prostitute.
Hosea obeys. Apparently he and his new wife Gomer get along OK, because they have a child in relatively short order. However, two more children are born shortly thereafter, whose names are “No Mercy” and “ Not My People.” What kind of father names his child “Not My People”? No father does…that’s the point. Hosea 1:3 says that Gomer “bore [Hosea] a son,” but verses 6 and 8 simply say that Gomer gave birth to children. These children were not Hosea’s.
The message of the story is dramatic. God is telling His people that they are cheating on Him, that “the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” (1:2, ESV) God isn’t pulling any punches here, He is stating it the way it is. Instead of being passionately, deeply in love with the groom, the bride is out sleeping with whoever she can pick up off the street.
Reading this story in the past, I have often pointed to the sinfulness of Israel, to God’s patience and kindness, and to how generally sinful humanity is. My problem was that I never really saw the personal message for me in the story. As I put myself into the story I was always an observer to the story, someone watching the pain of Hosea and the ridiculous rebellion and rejection by Gomer with sympathy; or I would identify with Hosea, understanding the feeling of helplessness and rejection.
My problem was that I wouldn’t accept the fact that, in the story, I am Gomer. I am the prostitute that was rejecting my Groom. I am the one that is continually walking away from the One that saved me, that loves me in spite of myself and is willing to provide for my every need.
It hurts to put ourselves in the role of Gomer because it becomes painful. We begin to see our rejection of God clearly and we begin to have an idea of the pain that we cause God. We have to come face-to-face with the ridiculousness of our choices: that we have walked away from something so good for something so terrible. We have to say, “I am the prostitute, whoreing myself out to whomever I meet.” That hurts.
However, the story doesn’t end there. Despite the rejection, the deception, and the pain God sends Hosea back out to get Gomer. Even after the adultry and two illegitimate children, Hosea takes her back. It isn’t even Hosea being willing to accept her after she comes crawling back full of apologies and remorse. Hosea has to go out, find his wife, and even pay for her; things have become so bad for this unrepentant adulteress that she has fallen into slavery.
Like Gomer, we have to recognize that, on our own, we are at a rock-bottom level of hopelessness. But God hasn’t given up on us; He still wants us and will redeem us. He loves us so much that He has paid for our rebellion and our mistakes. Despite the terrible things we have done to Him, He is still there to bring us home. On the other side of the pain we feel in understanding our rebellion and extreme sinfulness is a joy and a love that we otherwise could not understand.
God is desperately, passionately, deeply, and completely in love with you. Despite whatever it is that you’ve done, He is still there to pay the debt and bring you home, without any worry of guilt or resentment. Return to Him with joy and feel His love surround you as He holds you in His arms and carries you home.
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