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A Picture of God's Love

by Russell Carnley
August 2006
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Most people like to hear a love story. Indeed love is the subject of many novels and movies. This is because love is at the heart of humanity. Man's most fundamental need is to love and to be loved. A lack of love is the root cause of most of our problems. Fortunately, we have a God who loves us and wants us to love Him. God loves people, even when we don't love Him, and He wants us to know His love. But as sinful people, it is hard for us to understand His perfect love.

This was the case for the nation of Israel, who in the days of their prosperity had forgotten God. "When they had pasture, they were filled; They were filled and their heart was exalted; Therefore they forgot Me," (Hos. 13:6). Hosea the prophet was sent to remind the people of God's love, and to show how their rejection made Him feel. To do this, God chose to illustrate His love for Israel through Hosea's marriage to an unfaithful wife.

The Object of God's Love

God told the prophet, "...Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry And children of harlotry..." (1:2). And Hosea went and did just that, he married Gomer. There is a question as to whether Gomer was a harlot before their marriage, or if she became one afterward. Regardless of the answer, we see that she is inclined to this type of behavior, probably due to the influence of her family and the society around her. Their marriage provided her with an opportunity to improve her life; for her to lead a respectable life, a life with deeper meaning and purpose than just the fulfillment of carnal desires.

This marriage is like the children of Israel when they were slaves in Egypt. There they had no means of improving their condition, and indeed their circumstances were bad, (Ex. 1:14; 3:7) but God brought them out of that land and into the promised land of Canaan. There they could enjoy freedom and prosperity. They could serve God without the evil of paganism and idolatry, and could enjoy the manifold blessings of being God's chosen people.

Their marriage may also be compared to Christianity. It is as the conversion of a sinner by the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, (Rom. 1:16). By grace God issues the call and by faith the sinner receives it, (Eph. 2:8). The transaction is completed upon repentance (Acts 17:30), confession of Christ (Rom. 10:10), and baptism (Mk. 16:16). Here the old man of sin is buried with Christ, and the new is raised to walk in newness of life ,(Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12,13). This is a brand new start, the first step in a marvelous journey toward the eternal home. As Jesus said, "...I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly," (Jn. 10:10).

The Rejection of God's Love

So Gomer is given a new start, she is a married to a good man who loves and cares for her. Whatever her past was, it is not an issue now. They are blessed with a son, (1:3,4). But the pull of the world is strong for her, and she becomes an adulteress, (2:5) Two more children are born, a daughter and a son, (1:6-8). Neither of them are Hosea's. Perhaps he is doubtful about the second, but by the time the third is born, all doubt is removed, (His name ,Lo-Ammi means"Not-My-People).

Consider how he felt as he looked at those children whom he knew were the products of their mother's infidelity. He had been so good to her, and this is how she repays him! He must have been deeply hurt and angry at this (which explains why his writings are so impassioned). At the same time, he still loves her. She was likely very beautiful, and before they had a good relationship. I can see him trying to win her back, but to no avail.

Perhaps she made many promises, yet did not keep them. As God said of His people, "...For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, And like the early dew it goes away," (6:4). The reason is this: "My people are bent on backsliding from Me," (11:7). For their relationship to be right, she was going to have to change her ways, (2:2). Yet she did not, and neither did the nation. So Hosea, having done all he could do to save their relationship, has to let her go. He is very hurt by this, just as God was hurt by Israel's rejection, and just as He is hurt when His children depart from him today.

We can see the downward spiral of sin in the life of Gomer. Hosea puts her out, and she said, "I will go after my lovers, Who give me my bread and my water, My wool and my linen, My oil and my drink," (2:5). She traded a loving husband for those who would pay her for the use of her body to gratify their lusts. She traded a stable home, for a sojourn in the pigpen. "But the way of the unfaithful is hard," (Pr. 13:15b). And the next thing we read of her, she is a slave on the auction block, (3:2).

Imagine her standing there, as men, many of whom may have been her clients, are looking upon her and considering if she is worthy to purchase. She is naked,(2:3). She has been mistreated and abused by the world that had drawn her away. Shame covers her face. She remembers her former life and is filled with regret for all the foolish decisions she had made. She can't change them now, all she can do is stand there, while her fate lies in the hands of the heathen who would purchase her. Such are the wages of sin.

The Depth of God's Love

The bidding starts and is moving slowly. No one seems interested in her. Perhaps they are waiting for the younger, more attractive slaves to bid on. She feels worthless. Could anything be more humiliating than this? Finally the bidding is over, and she brought a meager sum: "...fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley," (3:2). A common slave was worth thirty shekels, (Ex. 21:32). She feels even worse.

As she is marched off of the auction block, she meets her new owner. To her surprise it is her former husband. She is even more ashamed that he sees her in this state. And she is afraid, "What will he do to me?" she wonders. She expects the worst but, to her surprise, he gently covers her and begins to walk her home. He tells her, "You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man - so too will I be toward you." (3:3). It would be different this time.

The relationship would not heal overnight, but, it would heal, (2:16). Such is the picture of God's great love for Israel. They had to go into captivity and suffer many things before they could return to the Lord, but when they returned, they no longer worshiped idols, (2:17; 14:8). God had given them "...the Valley of Achor as a door of hope" (2:15; comp. Josh. 7:26). Today, if we depart from Him, we can expect to pay the consequences of our action,(Heb.12:5-11). If we repent, we can expect to be forgiven and restored. God loves us, and He has an eternal home prepared for us, (Jn. 14:1-3). But we also must be prepared to enter, for sin has no place there, (Rev. 21:27).