Love isn’t always easy. Some days, it feels like your insides are being ripped out. Hosea is one of those books of the Bible which occasionally leaves you scratching your head.
Have you ever felt the Holy Spirit leading you to do something, but you could not figure out His overall plan? In fact, you wanted to say, “God, where are You going with this?” I wouldn’t be surprised if Hosea wondered that himself a few times after God told him to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2).
So, after Hosea married Gomer, she went back into prostitution (crazy, right!?!). She had a husband, three children, and what we would consider a much better life than someone who is living on the streets – giving her body away to strangers and likely contracting diseases. This relationship mirrored the nation of Israel’s turn from God to idols. When Israel sought God and lived righteously, they were blessed beyond measure; yet, they still chose to turn their hearts away from God and toward evil pursuits.
It’s hard to understand why they would do that until we search our own hearts. Aren’t we tempted, especially when life is floating along smoothly, to step outside of God’s protection and touch forbidden fruits? When we have a need, we cry out to God, turn away from the sin in our lives, and live righteously; but, after He supplies our needs and life gets back to normal again, it’s not uncommon for our prayer times to get fewer and farther between, our Bibles to gets stacked under a pile of books and papers, and our hatred for sin to turn into mere dislike.
In the third chapter of Hosea, God instructs Hosea to buy his wife back out of prostitution. Can you imagine? You’re married, you have three kids, and then your wife decides she’d rather live a life of prostitution than in a loving marriage with you? Or your husband decides he’d rather sleep on the streets under a tattered tent than in a warm home with you? Her behavior makes no sense and few of us would fault the man for letting her go her own way, but God tells Hosea to buy her back.
“And the Lord said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.’ So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, ‘You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.’” (Hosea 3:1-3 ESV)
“Even as the Lord loves the children of Israel” – God used Hosea’s life to paint a true to life portrait of His relationship with Israel. Even though Israel had given herself away to spiritual prostitution (i.e., worshipping false gods), God still loved Israel. Regardless of His anger towards her, He was ready to take her back. He is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:1-9).
Marriage is all about mercy and grace. My childhood pastor once said that mercy is not giving someone what he or she does deserve (e.g., wrath, pain, suffering, etc.), and grace is giving someone what he or she doesn’t deserve (e.g., forgiveness, unconditional love, affection, etc.). I sincerely hope no one reading this ever had to purchase his or her husband or wife out of prostitution, but this is the kind of deep, raw, no-holds-barred forgiveness God requires.
He doesn’t tell us to forgive when we feel like it or when the offense was just a little hurtful. He simply says to forgive. Matthew 6:14-15 even tells Christians to forgive others so God can forgive us! That’s serious business and let me tell you, marriage will give you many chances to forgive. In fact, you may have to forgive seventy times seven before you ever make it to the altar. Relationships intertwine two different wills and that friction will occasionally cause hurt feelings and opportunities to pour mercy and grace on each other.
This Valentine’s Day season as you take in all the red, pink, and candy around you, remember this love story. It’s not a light, fluffy story. It probably wouldn’t make it as a Hallmark Movie (though, maybe a Lifetime special ~smile~), but it shows the depths of God’s love for us and the kind of love we are to have for our husbands or wives. When you approach marriage, consider your ability to forgive others. Does it need some work? Does God need to chip away some walls around your heart? Before walking down that aisle, be sure you are ready to do a lot of forgiving; and, when it’s hard to forgive, flip your Bible open to the book of Hosea and remember how much God loves His people, and the lengths He has gone to show us mercy and grace.