[Jacob Morrison is an Assistant Pastor at Palmetto Hills Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, SC.]
One a wedding day, the groom anticipates his bride walking down the aisle in a brilliant white dress in radiant beauty. But what if when the congregation stood and those back doors were thrown open, the bride was found standing in a trashy tanktop and a worn out mini-skirt?
This was Hosea’s marriage. Gomer was a prostitute. She didn’t clean herself up. She didn’t abandon her past life. She didn’t try to pretty herself up for Hosea. God commanded Hosea to marry her in all of her impurity. What gives?
Through Hosea’s marriage, God gives us a glimpse of who He is, and how He has come to know us. Hosea’s marriage to Gomer speaks these words to us: “Your God is connected to you in covenant love like this man is to this woman. This is how God personally relates to you: you are His bride–you are His Gomer.”
If you only read the first three verses of Hosea, you might get the impression that Gomer has her life put back together: She is a reformed prostitute, redeemed through marrying a prophet of God, and now she’s bearing him a baby boy! Quickly verse four dashes our hopes; the son is named Jezreel, meaning “God scatters,” and things all of a sudden don’t look so rosy.
As Gomer goes on to conceive and bear two more children, the text remains silent about their legitimacy. The deafening silence points to the fact that these children are not Hosea’s. Marriage to Hosea did not change Gomer; she is still a whore. She is sleeping around behind Hosea’s back, and bearing children with her lovers. Yahweh names these children “No Mercy” and “Not My People.” Things do not look promising for the future of this marriage. And it’s only going to get worse…
God’s Unfaithful Bride.
“For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’ Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’ And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal.”
Hosea is not just speaking about his faithless wife. God is speaking through Hosea’s life about His people. We go after other lovers because we think they give us what we need and want. However, these false lovers offer false love. They are elusive, and the love they offer is illusory. Lost and broken, we wish we could go back to the One we know can supply what we truly need, but we cannot seem to find the way.
We fail to realize that the whole time, as we commit spiritual adultery against our God, we were being sustained by His gracious love. Verse eight truly reveals the depth of Gomer’s blindness; she does not even recognize that all of these things she has received come from Hosea. Instead, she believes these gifts are coming from her abusers–that is, until she ends up on the slave-trading block as a washed up, overused prostitute.
The Bride Price.
“And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.”
In chapter 3, we find Gomer on the auction block. Standing naked, everyone sees just how ragged and worn out she is, being sold because she has no use left. It would be hard to picture a more dehumanizing event. But Gomer is not the only one who is embarrassed: she still is married to Hosea! His wife is on public display, naked and waiting to be purchased for pennies on the dollar.
As he walks down the street toward the public square, you can picture filthy men coarsely joking, “I slept with that prophet’s wife!” At this moment, we have to stop and wonder how on earth this sad tale could demonstrate to us anything about God. Before we can see God, we have to see our adultery. We are Gomer. We have continually committed spiritual adultery with the idols of our heart. We are naked, used up, filthy, and worthless. As we watch Hosea approach his unfaithful and filthy wife naked in the public square, God is saying, “This is what it is like when My people sin against Me.”
Do we really believe that?
Do you believe that your spiritual adultery is as bad as Gomer’s?
Often we consider our sin on some sort of scale, with “big” sins on one end and “lesser” sins on the other. As long as we stay towards one side of the scale, we think of ourselves as more worthy of God’s love and righteousness. We do not feel the weightiness of our sin because we do not understand that sin is not just sin. Sin is against God. Our sin is not relational to us, especially with the “lesser” sins. We look at our sins of judgment and gossiping about someone with our friends or spouse and think that it is not that big of a deal: “Well, at least I didn’t commit adultery or something terrible like that!”
Who Are Your Illicit Lovers?
The story of Hosea and Gomer makes sin personal. When Gomer cheated on Hosea over and over again, she wasn’t just breaking a rule, she was breaking Hosea’s heart. Her repeated adultery was crushing him, emasculating him, making him a laughingstock and a failure.
Hosea’s story is God’s story. His people were an unfaithful people. You and I are Gomer. When this reality gets through our thick skulls, we begin to understand our sin and the pain it causes God. When we prostitute ourselves to our spiritual idols, it breaks God’s heart.
So who are your illicit lovers? What do you love? Where is your love going? Body image? Social acceptance? Lust? Affirmation? Wealth? Comfort? Success? You don’t have to be getting drunk, using drugs, committing murder or adultery to be unfaithful to God. Everyone knows these sins are wrong. The danger that many young Christians (heck, old ones, too!) fall into is thinking that as long as you don’t commit the “big” sins, you will be fine. Christianity slowly becomes about trying to be a good person. Unfortunately, you can be outwardly “good” and still be a Gomer.
What idols of the heart are you pursuing instead of your God? He is in the public square, looking on you with tearful eyes–eyes full of pain, sorrow, and mercy. He is heart-broken over your unfaithfulness. May our churches be filled with people who realize we are not those who have cleansed ourselves but who have been cleansed by our God.