Photo credit to Alamy.
“Then the LORD told me: “Go love your wife again, even though she is loved by others and has committed adultery. Love her as I, the LORD, love the Israelites, even though they have turned to other gods and love to eat raisin cakes.” Hosea 3:1
This is such an amazing life story that is being shared through Hosea. Just in this one verse there are so many questions to be asked and things to think about. And I wonder if we need to look back at Hosea 1:2. We hear the the LORD speaking to Hosea and saying, “Go, take unto you a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry; for the land does commit great harlotry, departing from the LORD.” Now, here is the thing. Did Hosea just run out and choose any old prostitute out there? Or had Hosea chosen a woman that he was attracted to and wanted to bestow his love upon, only to come to find out that this would be a part of her nature? This is a question I have been posed with and I think it matters.
Because if Hosea was to take a wife of harlotry unto himself then that must make me think of how he would be choosing children of harlotry, because the children weren’t to be produced until after the marriage. Therefore, if the children yet to be produced would be children that choose harlotry after their conception and birth, then it would appear that the wife would be one that chose harlotry despite her marriage relationship after it was consumed. But why does that matter?
It matters because Hosea already loved Gomer. When he had set his eyes upon her she was not a harlot. That expression “a wife of harlotry” is from the Hebrew words “esheth zenunim.” Skip Moen, who has more knowledge of the Hebrew than I do, says that if she had already been a prostitute, the Hebrew words would have been “ishah zonah.” But using esheth with the adjective zenunim tells us more of what she became according to the desire or propensity of the leaning of her heart. Gomer became a harlot by choosing unfaithfulness. She had this hidden propensity when she married Hosea, but God already knew her propensity and told Hosea to keep on with the marriage and go with his heart because God could use this for His glory. This was the perfect picture of what was happening with the hearts of Israel in their relationship with God Himself. While claiming Hosea as her husband, Gomer desired other men. And raisin cakes aren’t at all about the snack of choice. That’s what one ate when one was involved in the fertility cults. Gomer’s originally hidden heart was already deeply entrenched in unfaithfulness though Hosea was entrenched in love and faithfulness from the start.
Isn’t it funny that this talk of unfaithfulness makes me think about what faithfulness looks like. And if esheth zenunim is connected with idolatry, adultery, and unfaithfulness, it makes me think of another combination of Hebrew words which is quite the opposite, “esheth hayil.” Esheth hayil is that valiant woman that is found in Proberbs 31:10 and Ruth 3:11. And the truth is it’s not true of “everywoman.” This is a woman who has “risen above others.” (Jacqueline Vayntrub) Only Jacqueline feels she’s unrealistic. I think she has done more than rise above others. I think she has learned to rise above herself. And I don’t think she is unrealistic. I think I have seen her represented in women who choose the good of God and the good of others before themselves. I see it in women who desire the joy of God as their heart’s desire. And they are not perfect but they are in the perpetual process of being perfected. They weren’t born here. They made many choices that brought them to Proverbs 31 or Ruth 3. And they were not easy choices. They were self-sacrificial and hard choices. They were the kind of choices that Jesus made for us. It’s the kind of love choice that Hosea made for Gomer and God made for Israel and us. It’s the kind of choice any man or woman can make for God and those under their influence.
Gomer was presently incapable of love. Why? Did Hosea or God make her that way? No. She chose false love instead of true love. She chose unfaithfulness instead of faithfulness. What she valued was a lie and so she couldn’t understand the depth and breadth and height of the love that was just waiting to be lavished upon her. The sad thing is that we have a tendency to do the same to God. Gomer is not the only one.
This isn’t just a story of Hosea and Gomer. This is a love story. This is a story of the measure of God’s love for His bride, His people. He loved us before we ever loved Him. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His son to be the sacrifice by which our sins are forgiven.” (1 John 4:10) Hosea didn’t just run out and grab any prostitute. God didn’t just run out and grab some sinful, idol worshippers. He loved us before that was who we were. He loved us before our hearts turned away. He loves us through the turning of hearts. And he loves us all the way back to the return of our hearts to Him. But until we come to the realization of the immensity of Your love for us, that You loved us first so much, then how can we know how to love? You set the example. And just like You showed us what love looks like through Christ’s life and death and resurrection and obedience and joy and excitement, You showed us what love looks like through Hosea’s faithfulness to Gomer.
Here was Gomer, unfaithful to a faithful husband who loved and desired her. Hosea had fallen in love with her. He wanted the best for her. He was her friend, yet she looked to others. But Hosea didn’t let His love die. Why not? Didn’t he have every right to? Only by man’s standards. But that’s not the way that God loves. You give up Your rights and choose instead to love fully. And that’s what we’re called to. We’re called to give up our rights and our will and our pride to shine forth a picture of You in this world that gives hope and light and love and joy where this world is lacking. You are faithful to Your slaves. Gomer was purchased back for the price of a mere slave. But instead of despising Gomer or us, You lavish us with Your love. If only we would see and understand and accept it.
There is so much more to this story. There is so much relation to today and to our lives if only we would ask You to help us see. There are so many ways we need to change our thinking, so many ways that our thinking has been warped by this world we live in. Lord, let us stop reading stories and realize that we are reading the truths of life, that this all relates to today and to my heart right now. Help us to understand the depth of Your love for us and help us to live in that love and not be lured by lesser things that will never satisfy.