About 750 years before Jesus was born, there was an Israelite prophet named Hosea. In that culture, a prophet was someone who heard from God and then shared God’s message with the people. Hosea had a lot to say about the nature of love, especially God’s love.
One day, God comes to Hosea and tells him that instead of a message, he has an assignment for him. Hosea is going to be an object lesson, and his personal life is about to become very public. The story is found in the first chapter of the book named after Hosea.
God says, “Hosea, I’ve got a job for you. Are you ready?” Hosea is like, “Sure, God! You and me working together—this is going to be fun.” “Marry a prostitute.” “I’m sorry, Lord; what was that? I could have sworn I heard you say . . .” “Marry a prostitute.” “Um, wow. That’s what I thought you said. No offense, but that’s not what I expected. That’s not really a good move for a man of God. The tabloids and stuff, they’re going to be all over that. Now my PR guy says that I should—” “Hosea, you’re going to marry a prostitute. And you’re going to have kids.” So Hosea stops whining and marries a prostitute with the odd-sounding name of Gomer. Hosea and Gomer don’t live happily ever after, unfortunately. Not even close.
I should mention that at the time, Israel’s definition of love was very dysfunctional. If you read the book of Hosea, you’ll see this reflected in Hosea’s messages. The people of the day viewed love as a commodity that could be purchased. They also saw love as the pursuit of self-gratification. And finally, they spoke of loving inanimate objects. This was how they defined love: you can buy it, it’s about being satisfied personally, and it’s about possessions and things. Sounds a lot like our culture today. God recognizes that he must demonstrate to them what love really is. So he tells Hosea, “Go marry a prostitute.”
Hosea marries Gomer, and things go pretty well at first. They have one kid, then another, then another. They’ve been married awhile now. One day Hosea wakes up and she is gone. She’s abandoned the family and returned to prostitution. Hosea is now carrying the weight of being the spiritual leader of Israel as a single dad with three kids. This brings us to Hosea, chapter 3.
God says to Hosea, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery.” He is referring to Gomer. “What?” Hosea asks in disbelief. “Go find Gomer. Go love this woman who is right now committing adultery. Go find your wife and love her.” And then God makes one of the most amazing statements ever. He tells Hosea to love Gomer “just like the love of the Lord” for his people. God is saying that his love is not like ours. Against all common sense, in contrast to our human ideas about justice and commitment, God’s love never quits. How heart wrenching is this process for Hosea? He has to go look for his wife, a former prostitute, who is now back in prostitution. Finding Gomer is not comfortable. It’s not neat or tidy. He walks down streets and goes into buildings that good people avoid. A man of God should never be seen there; everyone knows that. But there goes Hosea, looking for his wife. This is illogical. This is unfair. This is extravagant. He should never have to do this. It gets more unbelievable.
Verse 2 says, “So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver.” Wait! What? She was his wife. Why is he paying for her? Somehow, Gomer has become trapped in the sex slave industry. Evidently she left Hosea voluntarily, but now she finds herself captive. Does Hosea find her on some pedestal somewhere, chained and shackled, beaten, on sale to the highest bidder? Hosea sees his wife, the mother of their three children, and he tells her seller, “Excuse me, sir, that’s my wife.” The man says, “I don’t care who you think she is, this is her price.” “But I . . . But she . . . All right. I understand. What’s the price?” Hosea pays the money and receives his wife. Can you imagine that exchange? When Hosea looks into the eyes of his wife? No doubt she hangs her head in embarrassment. She expects rejection. She expects rebuke. Gomer knows what it is like to be purchased by men who want to use her. That has been the story of her life. It is what she thinks she deserves. But Hosea doesn’t buy her to use her. He buys her to heal her. She has to wonder: He’s found me—and now he’s buying me? I abandoned him. I abandoned our three kids. And yet he insists on buying me back? What kind of a man is this?
Verse 3 tells us what Hosea says to his wife next. This blows my mind, because I can’t imagine myself saying this if I were him. “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you” (NIV). What is he doing? He is renewing their vows. He is restoring their relationship. She probably can’t even look up, but he is making their marriage as if she had never wronged him. Interestingly, the name Hosea means “salvation” in Hebrew, and the name Gomer means “completion.” I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
God is preaching the gospel 750 years before Jesus. He is telling his people that in the middle of their rebellion and stubborn sin, he will complete their salvation. No matter how far they have strayed, he will take the initiative to find them, heal them, and love them.
So Hosea is a picture of God and—no offense—Gomer is a picture of you and me. God created humankind. We are his. But we left him, so to speak, through sin. Humanity turned its back on God and insisted on going its own way. And yet, two thousand years ago, God paid a dear price to redeem us from sin. He paid for what was already his, and his Son, Jesus, spilled his blood to buy us back.
Our Hosea has come. Salvation has come. He found you and he found me. He had to walk in the most despicable places and he had to roam the darkest alleys to find the people he so passionately loves. As Hosea searched for his wife, so Jesus came searching for the salvation of humanity. And by the way, when God found us, we were not so neat and nice and put together as maybe we are now. We were in chains. We were naked, sinful, and helpless. And our gracious God said, “How much? Very well. I’ll send my Son, Jesus.”
You’re Gomer. I’m Gomer. We were bent on following our own plans, our own will, and it only got us stuck in sin. But God didn’t let that stop him. He wouldn’t rest until he found us.
Maybe you’ve been looking for love in all the wrong places, and you’re tired, and you’re dirty, and you’re ashamed, and you’re hanging your head. God is still madly in love with you. His love is not altered by who you are or where you’ve been or who you were with last night. He wants you to drop your defenses and accept his embrace. His love is real. He doesn’t want you for what you can do—he wants you for you. God loves the world—and God loves you—with an uncontainable, indescribable, tireless love. His love makes life work right. It finds you and it heals you. It chases you and embraces you.
When you discover God’s love, everything changes.
(Excerpted from “Life is ______: God Illogical Love Will Change Your Existence” by Judah Smith)