The Book of HOSEA
My grandmother was a frugal woman. When she visited our home when we were children she would make a cup of tea and the entire week she was at her house there would sit that one lonely tea bag on a saucer, begging someone to throw it away. It was so used up it barely had any tea left in it. She was the only one who drank tea so it was not like anyone else would use it. It wasn’t until later on in life when I studied the Great Depression that I came to realize her foresight in not wasting money. Then there’s my college roommate who received a Poinsettia for Christmas. The plant thrived until one day in March we mentioned it was looking a little rugged. Our deck resembled a plant cemetery as my roommates big heart just would not let her give up on that plant. It had a streak of green on a limb and she earnestly watered it believing for a comeback. That same tenacity was in her heart for people, broken and dehydrated in need of God’s love.
When we read Hosea this month these two women came to mind. There was just something tenacious in them that displayed to me that they were not swayed by others opinions or whims. Their persistence was contagious. I think Hosea was such a man. His name means salvation so he must have had some understanding early on that “quitter” would not be in his vocabulary.
It is one thing to test a man with a quiz, a job, even ones health but to get in his face and mess with his family is really above and beyond. God would not waste these lessons or his pain as Hosea was led, even called to marry and then search after the town whore. The shame, the embarrassment, the slander must have been unbearable. What self-respecting preacher would go against all norms to do such a thing?
Someone who’s sold out.
Someone not living for themselves.
Someone who knew they could trust the heart of God.
This book messes with our minds because it seems out of God’s will to do such a thing yet God calls Hosea to obey Him rather than sacrifice to Him. With Daniel we saw moral courage and career success – his pathway we can emulate. But how does one model after Hosea? How does one give God access to rip apart ones very heart to touch a family? That’s a whole new level of torture. A prophet rejected by the one who intimately knew him best. A groom turned away by his closest love – his bride.
This, Yahweh says, is what my people have done to Me.
The self-righteousness in me does not like the grace for Gomer. I think Hosea could have done better and his wife did not deserve the second chance. I wrestled with this for a while but then I had a conversation with some friends about God’s desire for us and what He expects from us. We will mess up. We will have days that we will regret. We will set our affections on lesser things. We will get discouraged, not just because we are human but because at our core we are weak and sinful. Will God turn His face on us then? Will God forsake me when I am weak, depraved, messed up? Someone told me that “mature Christians” should no longer go through those things. I almost believed it — until I remembered what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:8, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.” I think Paul was pretty mature and yet he had bad, awful days. That did not however mean God turned away from him. Resist the urge to think all his struggles were spiritual ones, the guy was human and subject to the same emotions and trials that we go through today.
God still loves us when we are weak, miserable, sinful and weary. If His grace is not stronger than our sin, we would be without hope. If His grace and mercy were dependent on our actions or holiness or maturity we would all certainly be doomed for eternity. Those who rest on their maturity or strength may feel confident today but tomorrow… when the sun doesn’t shine, when the bills don’t get paid, when things don’t go as expected will their hope dim? I believe that’s why our righteousness must fully be dependent on the blood of Jesus which remains FULL STRENGTH. The song, The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power” comes to mind. A favorite hymns says, our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.” The notion that we have to be “strong or perfect” seems to suggest that we are not in need of a blood that cleanses or sets free. No wonder sinners struggle to fit in churches today – it can feel like a group of “mature” believers rather than scoundrels in need of grace. Can you hear the difference? We don’t reach perfection; we succumb to the everlasting love of a God who changes us as we continually enter His grace. Everything flows from that one central relationship – pretty important.
When we read Hosea we don’t stand in the place of righteous Hosea, wealthy elite who condescends to his wayward wife. WE are the skanky, double-minded, divided heart woman who leaves, embarrasses and destroys her family. Any hint of idolatry and we land in that camp. This book stirs our hearts to consider our waywardness, our turning away in even the slightest decision. We are confronted with our decisions to reject or choose God and His ways. It should remind us of a God who longs to bring us rest and bring us back into His heart and home.
Like my grandma with her little tea bag, Hosea was a re-cycler. He saw down the road and he saw value where others couldn’t. He just couldn’t throw Gomer away. Like my roommate he was just determined that there was a glimmer of hope for new life. Against all odds, when everyone else would have thrown in the towel, he clung to his greatest value. Or I should say the One he valued. I like that poster that says an oak tree was once just a little nut that held his ground. Broken, disparaged Hosea was just a byword, a scorned lover who couldn’t accept reality –if you asked the locals, but to God …. and all those watching for eternity onward, he was a man who received the answer to his prayer. H got to see the realization of hope planted in God. That’s incredible. I want a love like that! I want to love like that! GOD loves like that.
While studying Hosea we also were studying Rosh Hashanah. It is a time of reflection and confession before God. It begins the ten days of awe when we search our hearts and renew our commitment to Christ. One of the foundations for this festival is making a choice to serve God and give Him our whole hearts. We choose to make Christ our King. We choose to remember God. We choose to seek Him and denounce all other gods and affections. God is a jealous God. These seasonal festivals remind us to renew our love for Yahweh. It stirred my heart to consider that message and Hosea at the same time. We were inspired to learn that the Shofar is blown to alert people to the time and alarm of the hour. God breathed his RUACH into Adam. We now become that shofar – we are the voice alerting the nations that Messiah is calling. We can be the vessels, holy and set apart to announce His coming. God stands waiting to see if we are willing to be His faithful Bride, His shofar, His love.
Will you choose God afresh today – make HIM the King of your heart? Will your renounce all other gods and affections? Our passions will only find their rest in God; our lives will only find their purpose in the Creator.
As you wrestle with the message of Hosea and Gomer, may you find peace and true Love. When you don’t? May you rest in the absolute guarantee that He is waiting for you, longing for you and yes still loving you, not because of what YOU say or do but because of who HE IS. When we are unfaithful, He remains faithful. Unchanging, constant, beneficent, faithful, persistent. THAT is amazing love.
These next days of awe… purify our hearts Lord, we return to YOU, our husband and lover of our souls.