This summer, we are inviting folks along on a journey through the minor prophets in a sermon series called, "The Book of the 12". As a way to get people thinking during the week, and as a way to help those who might miss a week here or there, I will be blogging about each of these books on Thursday before it gets preached on Saturday and Sunday. I invite your dialogue each week! I believe that as we process together, we are stretched and challenged to grow.
One aspect of the minor prophets that drew me to preaching on them was the idea that these books actually form one book. A great deal of evidence exists that these books, from the very start, were written, designed, and compiled intentionally into one work called the Book of the Twelve. If this is so, as I am prone to believe, then Hosea forms the perfect 'opening chapter' for the book. The introduction here sets up everything else.
So what did God seek to communicate in the opening chapter? At first, it seems quite confusing. God's opening words to Hosea the prophet are, "Go marry a prostitute." I can only imagine the various reactions and choice words Hosea had for this command. But, in obedience, he does just as God says. God wants a very graphic image of how Israel has treated him. I'm not sure He could get much more graphic than this! Hosea marries Gomer the prostitute and together they have three children. (Although if you read the text closely, it is highly likely that these children are NOT fathered by Hosea.)
The children are given names like "not planted", "not loved" and "not my people". And you thought your name was bad! Things do not look good for God and Israel at this point. Yet before the first chapter comes to a close, we see powerful foreshadowing of what God has in mind. He predicts a day when all will be changed, and the kids (metaphors for Israel, remember) will get new names- planted, loved, and my people. This sounds good! This is a story of redemption, hope and possibility!
Or is it? Because what happens next is astounding. Gomer leaves. Gomer betrays Hosea, abandons his love, and returns to living in the brothel. And Hosea, as a representative of God, is left as the jilted lover. Prophecy flows about the anger of God and the coming destruction on Israel for her sin. All is lost! The future is bleak! How could it not be? A redeemed hooker who is given everything throws it all away for her former life of folly. Good riddance, we say!
But not God. God's heart will not yield. Even though He is moved to fury, His passionate love remains unchanged. He sends Hosea to find her and bring her back. Think about that- He sends Hosea AGAIN to reclaim a woman that won't even stay with him. And by chapter 14, the end of this book, God is promising to love and bless his unfaithful bride. How awesome is that?
What turns this book on its head for me, though, is not that we are supposed to be like Hosea, and like God, and love the sinner who keeps on sinning. No, what makes this book amazing is that we are invited over and over to see that we are Gomer. We are ones who have experienced the incredible love and redemption of God, and yet we continue to run to other lovers. We go back to our addictions. We rely on self. We get caught up with the world. We turn from real love and prostitute ourselves with cheap imitations.
And where is God? Coming to find us and bring us home. Again. And again. Because His love will not relent. Even in brothels. Or board rooms. Or bed rooms. He will find you. He will find me. The question for us is will we get up and go home to live with Him, our true love?
I pray we will. Journey on-