Hosea's life story is one of love, sadness, loneliness, and tragedy. Were it not for the marvelous revelation of God's love, the reader of Hosea's prophecy would think he were reading a modern-day romance novel, even though it was written more than 700 years B.C.
Unlike the "Love story" in the book of Ruth, Hosea's story lacks the devotion of a good woman who found her "Knight in shining armor." Instead, it depicts a man of God, fighting for the love of an adulterous woman, whose unsavory character was well known. Also unlike Ruth, this woman had more interest in making money than she had in her own husband and three children. (Sounds more than a little like a 21st century dysfunctional family, doesn't it?)
This woman, named Gomer, was a professional prostitute. Money meant more to her than life itself. She chose the support of her lovers, rather than the love of family. It is likely that Hosea did not have the means to support her in the lifestyle she had become accustomed to living. Then, why in the world would a man of God get involved in such a predictable disaster? Many of us who teach purity of heart and life would not be overjoyed at the answer, which is that God told Hosea to marry her! But why? It was to prove His love for undeserving people.
In the Old Testament, God used prophets in various, and sometimes very unusual ways to get the attention of a disobedient people. Hosea's life is a lesson; it is not a pattern to follow. In order for Israel to comprehend the seriousness of their unfaithfulness, God provided a live object lesson, which was intended to awaken Israel to the fact that they were involved in soul-damming idolatry. But, why involve Hosea?
Hosea was to exemplify God's love by marrying a prostitute. His portrayal of God's unrelenting love for Israel, was an attempt to draw them away from idol worship, and to be faithful to the true and living God who cared for them.
At times, some professing Christians behave as "spiritual prostitutes." Love of self puts them in the place of God, living only for personal notoriety. They have become their own idol. For others it is the love of material gain. Still others find pleasure in a world of mysticism. All are condemned by our Heavenly Father, "Love not the world, nor the things of this world". We fall far short of God's expectation of truth and holiness (see 1 John 2:15).
After Gomer was married she gave birth to three children, and God named all three: 1) a son named Jezreel which meant, "God will avenge by bringing down the house of Israel." 2) A daughter named Loruhamah-"I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel." 3) A son named Loammi-"For you are not my people, and I will not be your God."
It sounds like final judgment, but as we continue reading there is more to the story. According to Hosea 2:5, Gomer left her husband to resume here former "career", choosing to live with many lovers, but God set up barriers so that Gomer could not regain her former life-style. When she became impoverished, Hosea secretly provided food and money for her, but she did not know who was giving the gifts. Do the people who reject God in our day realize who provides the food they eat, or the clothing they wear? God provides even though people deny Him.
There came a time when provisions ceased, causing Gomer to be put up for sale. (People who were indebted could sell themselves as a slave, or be sold, in order to pay their debts.) God told Hosea, "Go... love the adulteress as the Lord loved Israel" (paraphrased). Hosea said, "So I bought her... for fifteen pieces of silver, and an homer and one-half (about 13 bushels) of barley." Barley was a poor man's grain, which implies that Hosea was not a wealthy man. Hosea said to Gomer, "You shall abide with me...you shall not play the harlot, and you shall not be for another man, so will I be for thee." Notice, Hosea did not expect more from Gomer than he was willing to give of himself. This takes a love that cannot be explained by man, yet God extended even greater love than this toward a people that had little respect for Him.
How privileged we are that 700+ years later, God sent His only begotten Son to "buy back" those who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. At Calvary, Jesus paid the supreme sacrifice for our sin, thus redeeming those who had prostituted the love of our Heavenly Father. God did not redeem us with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of His own dear Son. It took the best that He had to pull us from the brink of hell-fire. We now belong to Him, not only because He created us in the first place, but because He "bought us back" when we were unable to pay the debt we owed.
Satan had us in his grip, but thank God, Jesus set us free. Our eternal souls were put up for sale, but Jesus made the highest bid. Aren't you glad He did?
Donald W. Raub is pastor of East Rockhill Chapel in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.