[April 28]—A Call To Heartbreak

Hosea 1

            Ok, now we’re back to the prophets, specifically the book of Hosea. Today’s passage reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Jeff Foxworthy (I’m paraphrasing): “When you just can’t get out of bed one more time to face that stupid boss one more time and just can’t force yourself to spend one more minute in that stupid job, just think to yourself, ‘I could be working with tar for $5 an hour.’”
            The reason I bring it up is that I think of that scenario here. I mean you thought you had a bad job!
            We know a little about this prophet: His father was Beeri, he was called as a prophet during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel, and he operated out of the northern Kingdom of Israel (as opposed to the southern kingdom of Judah). The dominant tribe in the north was Ephraim, which is why Hosea often uses that name to refer to the entire country. Right after Solomon’s reign, all the tribes (except for Judah and Benjamin) rebelled and seceded from the Davidic kingdom. The ten tribes called themselves Israel, and the southern half of the nation (Judah and Benjamin) called itself Judah.
            As far as kings went, Judah had a few really good kings, a few really bad ones, and most of them not too terrible but certainly not as good as David. But Israel. . . well, not so much. Every king of Israel was a real stinker. There’s no mention in Scripture of any of them putting any effort into being faithful and obedient. And as always, sin had consequences. Israel’s time was running out. As Matthew Henry put it, God’s reprieves are not pardons.
            Enter Hosea. God called him as a prophet, and the Lord did something to this man which he didn’t expect of any of his other servants. As far as we know, this guy was never particularly persecuted. There’s no mention of him being jailed or tortured for his faithfulness. But oh, what a cost to this man! The Lord called him to do something which—to a lot of men—would make a whipping seem kind by comparison.
The Lord called upon him to marry a “promiscuous” woman. Please note that although vs. 3 says that Gomer "bore him a son," vs. 6 merely relates that Gomer “conceived again and gave birth to a daughter,” and vs. 8 says that she “had another son.” Most biblical scholars I’ve read see a great significance in that wording: She bore him a son, but the verbiage used about the other two births strongly hints that the parentage of the other children in his home was suspect at best.
            So here’s the unanswered question: Was Gomer promiscuous before she met Hosea or after? Scholars are divided on this question. Did the Lord tell him to marry a woman who was already promiscuous, or was he merely predicting that she would cheat on him, or both? I’m not sure, but it’s ultimately not that important.
            What really grabs my attention is why the Lord would do this to a faithful servant. There’s no mystery on that score: God told Hosea to marry into heartbreak in order to be a living illustration of his relationship with his faithless people. He did it to prove a point.
            But why would God do this? Couldn’t he just tell them what he was feeling? Apparently not. He wanted to hit home--right into the gut—about how he feels--the anger, the sense of betrayal, the heartache--when he sees his people acting faithlessly. We aren’t breaking a set of laws like the posted speed limits. We’re committing adultery against the One who redeemed us, who stooped down and—at incredible cost to himself—pulled us out of the mess we put ourselves in.
            This is a pattern we’ve seen before, but maybe not to this degree. Isaiah was ordered by God to walk around naked for 3 years. Ezekiel was tied up and forced to be mute as a living illustration. Jeremiah was forbidden to marry, attend a funeral, or attend a party/feast. All of this was the Lord’s method of reaching out to his faithless people and warn them.
            That’s the key word here: warning. I once heard a great illustration of what the prophets, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, were doing. Imagine a mother who suddenly looks up and sees her child playing in the street and a truck about to run him over. She’d be screaming, waving her arms, and generally (if you didn't consider the context) acting like a crazy person, all in a desperate move to save her child.
            That’s what the Lord was doing here. He loved his people and didn’t want to see them come to harm. He’d given them the Torah, which should've been all they needed as far as instructions. But they ignored and rejected it. He sent them prophets, who also were ignored or even persecuted. So almost as a last ditch effort, he made his servants do some crazy-seeming things in order to get peoples’ attention.
            So this ringer that he put Hosea through was just so that he could show us A) How much he loves us, B) How reluctant he is to give us what we deserve, and C) What my sin does to his heart.

Father, what can I say? What you asked your prophet to do is nothing compared to what you did. For me. 

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