TEXT: Hosea 1:1-10
The book of Hosea is the most shocking book in the Old Testament. Few people can imagine what it would be like to be married to a woman like Gomer, a prostitute.
- She had no inner moral compass — no restraints.
- You could never trust her.
- You would know that she was always looking for some excitement.
- You would see her invite the attentions of other men and then deny it vehemently.
- She would disappear for days at a time and you would not know where she was.
- She would cruelly mock you and you would be the laughingstock of the town.
- She was full of moral turpitude.
The ability to make a commitment would never be a part of her character.
It has happened to other people besides Hosea, but Hosea went into the relationship with his eyes wide open. He knew what kind of woman she was, but God had asked him to marry her; and he willingly did so, in spite of the enormous pain it would bring into his life.
- Sometimes God gave a prophet like Hosea words to speak to the people of Israel and Judah. He would give them words warning of impending judgment so they could be spared by giving up their sin and following God again.
- At other times he would give them words of love in an attempt to win back the affections of his people. He would remind them of all his love had done for them and tell them how much he wanted them to come back home to him.
But sometimes words failed and God had to resort to a different kind of communication. He would give the prophet a message to act out.
The prophet’s actions would be a living drama playing out the message of God in a dramatic way.
- He told Isaiah to remove his clothes, except for a loin cloth, and walk around as a living picture of the horrors of war and exile.
- He asked Ezekiel to lay on his side and eat a starvation diet which he would cook over animal dung — depicting the horrors of war inflicted on the people, which would come if they did not repent of their sins.
- He asked Amos to hold up a plumb line to show the people how out of balance their lives were.
There were many of these prophetic plays which took place, but none were as painful as when God asked Hosea to marry Gomer. Why did God ask him to do something like this? It was an ongoing drama of God’s marriage to unfaithful Israel. As people saw Gomer, a woman with no moral sense, becoming more vulgar and diseased every year, they remembered that she was the prophet’s wife and he had married her knowing that she would be unfaithful. They would ultimately get the message that there was a parallel between Hosea’s relationship to Gomer and God’s relationship to them. They were to be married to God, but they were unfaithful to him and loved many other gods.
What was the message of this drama? It was threefold.
The first message from the life of Hosea is:
1. THE LOVE OF GOD IS UNREASONABLE.
How many of you had been in love in one way or another? Who can explain love? Can you explain what love is? Aside from “Love is blind” and “Love is a many splendor thing.” What is love? No one can really define love…it’s beyond reason…If love always made sense it would not be love. It comes like a storm in a person’s life, it caught a person by surprise…your whole being unnoticeably, responds to your feelings…your heart pounds as you see the person, you get nervous, you perspire, without really understanding why…it makes you go an extra mile…you would realize that all because of your love for the person, you can do things that you have never tried or have done before…it doesn’t make sense when all you care about is the happiness of the person and not your own…It does not always respond to logic.
The thing that God had asked Hosea to do did not make sense. But then, God’s love for Israel did not make sense either. The question of the book is not why God would ask Hosea to marry Gomer, but why God would marry Israel.
Why would God commit himself to a group of people he knew would not be faithful to him? IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE…IT’S UNREASONABLE!
If God was going to make a commitment to a nation why wouldn’t he choose a nation he knew would be faithful?
- Why wouldn’t he choose people who would be grateful for his love and thankful for his blessings?
- Why wouldn’t he select those who would be inclined to follow his laws and appreciate the wisdom of his ways?
According to our way of thinking, according to our logic…GOD IS UNREASONABLE! We would choose to love someone who loved us. Who would feel for us…who would understand…We would look for someone we thought would be faithful to us. But God chose a nation that is unfaithful and ungrateful…That’s unreasonable. Listen to this outrageous verse from the Bible: “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). When God enters into a covenant of love with us, the covenant does not depend on our faithfulness, but on the faithfulness of God.
We keep thinking that God only loves good people, but God loves sinners. He pursues them like he asked Hosea to pursue Gomer. In His pain he goes looking for them. He is betrayed but he longs for them. WHEN THEY BECOME ENSLAVED BY THEIR SINS, HE BUYS THEM BACK. The Bible describes our predicament: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12). But in spite of that, God did something completely irrational — HE LOVED US AND SOUGHT FOR A WAY TO BUY US OUT OF OUR SLAVERY TO SIN. The Bible says, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19). That is why the Bible can say, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Singer Steven Curtis Chapman said it well: “In The Gospel, we discover we are far worse off than we thought, and far more loved than we ever dreamed.”
Ian Pitt-Watson tells the story of his little girl. He writes, “There is a natural, logical kind of loving that loves lovely things and lovely people. That’s logical. But there is another kind of loving that doesn’t look for value in what it loves, but that creates value in what it loves. Like Rosemary’s rag doll. When Rosemary, my youngest child, was three, she was given a little rag doll, which quickly became an inseparable companion. She had other toys that were intrinsically far more valuable, but none that she loved like she loved the rag doll. Soon the rag doll became more and more rag and less and less doll. It also became more and more dirty. If you tried to clean the rag doll, it became more ragged still. And if you didn’t try to clean the rag doll, it became dirtier still. The sensible thing to do was to trash the rag doll. But that was unthinkable for anyone who loved my child. If you loved Rosemary, you loved the rag doll — it was part of the package.”
It doesn’t make sense, but God loves dirty, ragged sinners, and you can’t separate him from them
But a second message that the life of Hosea teaches us is:
2. THE LOVE OF GOD IS A TOUGH KIND OF LOVE.
Hosea never minimized the nature of the wrong Gomer had done to him.
- The pain was real and raw.
- His love had been betrayed.
- He did not gloss over the situation.
- He took it seriously.
And when Gomer insisted on being unfaithful to him, he let her go.
- He understood that it was to her own detriment.
- He knew what was ahead of her.
- He no longer wanted anything to do with her, so she would no longer have his help.
- She was on her own. It was what he wanted, but she could not see the mistreatment she would suffer.
- She would be used and abused.
- She would be called names by those who were supposed to love her.
- She would be beaten and treated like an animal.
- There would be many things that Hosea could not protect her from since she had run away from him.
She would learn the lessons of life the hard way, and live out the consequences of her poor choices. As Hosea would later write about people like her: “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7).
In the second chapter of Hosea, God describes what he will do to his unfaithful people: “Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now’” (Hosea 2:6-7).
As with Gomer, many times we have to learn the hard way that God’s way is the best way. We waste our lives and our love on many other things until we have been abused long enough that we say, “I will go back to my God, for then I was better off than before.”
Many people have quoted William Ernest Henley’s poem entitled “Invictus,” which praises the indomitable human spirit:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul….
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
That’s a fine poem. There is only one problem: IT IS NOT TRUE! We are not the master of our own fate, or the captain of our soul. There is another who claims that right. And to fail to recognize that God is the master of the world, and your fate as well, or worse, to rebel against the true Captain of your soul, IS TO DO SO AT YOUR OWN PERIL. If you do so, God will give you your own way, but you will not like it. His love is a tough love.
The third message that the book of Hosea is giving us is:
3. THE LOVE OF GOD IS UNCONDITIONAL.
We often give up on people. Some even write others off, or count them as dead, when their love or trust has been betrayed. BUT GOD IS DIFFERENT.
In chapter three, Gomer’s sin has worn her out, and now she is stripped and being sold as a slave on an auction block. None of her former beauty remains. Perhaps she is sick. It may be that she is being sold by a house of prostitution, or a slave owner who no longer finds her desirable. Whatever the case, Hosea does the unthinkable. HE BUYS HER FOR HIMSELF.
The price was very low — less than half an ounce of silver and some barley, a grain inferior to wheat. It was half the price a female slave would normally bring. Apparently, she was not worth much to anyone at this point, and they were just glad to get rid of her.
In the beginning she was a beautiful woman. The name Gomer means “perfect,” possibly a reference to her appearance and desirability. But now her beauty is gone — ruined through hard living, and no one will have her except one man.
Hosea will make her his wife again, A LIVING SYMBOL OF GOD’S UNCONDITIONAL LOVE FOR FAITHLESS ISRAEL. The Lord said to Hosea, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites” (Hosea 3:1).
It would have been one thing for Hosea to excuse a foolish, even sinful mistake by his wife, but even after he confronted her she continued brazenly in her sin. She flaunted it. She mocked him and forgot everything he had ever done for her. But God told him to buy her back out of slavery. God asked him to do this because it is what God does.
Hosea was acting like God. GOD’S LOVE IS TRULY UNCONDITIONAL.
King David wrote in Psalm 139: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7).
The question is: why would we want to go away from God? Why would we want to run from him? The answer is that it is part of who we are. It is our nature to run from God, and it is God’s nature to pursue us — even when we are at our worst. YOU CAN NEVER RUN SO FAR THAT YOU OUTRUN GOD’S LOVE FOR YOU. No matter what you have done, no matter where you have been, he wants you and sees you as his beloved bride. God doesn’t throw us on the garbage heap when we fail.
One of the greatest movies ever made is Les Miserables, because it is based on one of the greatest books of all time by Victor Hugo. In the movie, Jean Valjean constantly gives grace to people around him, because he has first received grace from an old priest who saved his life, in spite of the fact that he had stolen from him. One of the people to whom Valjean extends grace is Fantine, a single mother who loses her job and is forced into prostitution in order to support her daughter Cossett, and be able to survive herself. One evening she is abused and beaten by a group of men. Jean Valjean takes her to a safe place and cares for her. But Fantine says to him, “Why are you being so kind?” At first she thinks he wants what all the other men wanted. When it dawns on her that there are no strings attached, she says, “You don’t understand. I’m a whore, and Cossett has no father.” Jean Valjean responds with these amazing words of grace: “She has the Lord. He is her father, and you are his creation. In his eyes you have never been anything but an innocent and beautiful woman.”
There is God’s unconditional, inescapable love. WE SEE OURSELVES AS WE ARE, BUT HE SEES US FOR WHAT WE CAN BECOME.
God’s love has nothing to do with you! Others may love you because:
- You’re cute, cuddly and adorable.
- You’re rich.
- You’re fun to be around.
- You’re family (and they HAVE to love you).
But, not God! God loves you simply because He WANTS to love you…He CHOSE to love you…He DECIDED to love you. Listen to what God told Israel (who would have been difficult for even the most loving of us to love) – Deuteronomy 7:7-8 – “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
We’re all familiar with HUMAN love. There’s “puppy” love, Grand-parent love, “first” love, “love” at first sight…a love for the arts, a love of chocolate, and much more. We have all kinds of friends…“fair-weather” friends, “long-distance” friends, “new” friends, “old” friends, “former” friends, “close” friends. This is HUMAN love, and HUMAN love is fickle, sporadic, temporary, and conditional.
But GOD’S LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL, CONSTANT, AND PERFECT. You can’t influence God’s love, because God Himself is love. Jesus didn’t go to the cross because of any love you had for Him…or for any influence you placed on Him. Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus must have really loved you to do what He did for you, because, your sins put Him there.
We look at some people…they have money, a good job, good health, live a good life, have a good family and marriage. We think, “God must really love them … look at how much He has blessed them!” Or, we look at others … they have problems, are sick, poor, have lost their job, or are plagued with family or marital problems. We think, “God must not really love them … look at all the problems they have!”
NONSENSE! Forget those thoughts. Circumstances have nothing to do with God’s love. When everything seems to be going wrong, God still loves you. When everything seems to be going right, God still loves you. If you want a gauge of God’s love…a yardstick to measure His love…DON’T LOOK AT YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES, LOOK AT THE CROSS!
But you will ask me, “How could God love ME, when I’m so unworthy of His love? He sees my life…knows how I live…knows me inside and out…knows when I fail Him, and fail to live up to His love. There’s too much sin in my life for God to love someone like me. So, how could God love ME?” Paul answers that with a question. Romans 8:33 – “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Once God accepts you for who and what you are, and loves you anyhow…who else’s opinion matters?
You have never lived a day, a minute, a second, when God didn’t love you.
- You may have hidden in shame from God, like Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden … but God still loves you.
- You may have deserted Him like the disciples, when they fled when Jesus was arrested … but God still loves you.
- You may have denied Him like Peter, when they asked him about his relationship with Jesus … but God still loves you.
- You may have doubted Him like Thomas … but God still loves you.
- When you sit at the bedside of a loved one who is racked with pain or disease … God still loves you.
- When you sit at the graveside after losing one who has touched your heart and life … God still loves you.
- When you weep because your financial burdens seem too heavy to bear … God still loves you.
- When you see your family torn apart, or your marriage heading for disaster … God still loves you.
- When your heart aches because of a great sin you’ve committed, and you feel that God could never forgive you … God still loves you.
God could never love you any more than He already does. And, God could never love you any less than He already does. We think that God will love us more if we cuss less, drink less, sin less. We think that God will love me more if I pray more, study my Bible more, attend church more, live a better life. While these things might be an indicator of your love for God…they don’t impact or change God’s love for you one bit.
People might criticize you, condemn you, gossip about you, cheat you, find fault and nit-pick about you, berate or belittle you, accuse you.
Revelation 12:10 even says that that’s exactly what Satan is doing right now before God.
“Look at Jhun … did you see what he did today? … Did you hear what he said? … Did you tune in to those thoughts he had? And he calls himself a Christian … even a preacher at that! Shows you how much he loves you! And, after all you’ve done for him!”
God looks at him and says … “I’m sorry, but I don’t see Jhun.” Satan replies … “Right down there … you see him … right down there!” God answers … “Sorry, I didn’t see Jhun. When I look at him, all I see is my Son, Jesus.”
In it all, through thick and thin, good times and bad times … God still loves you! You never leave His mind, His thoughts, or His sight. He sees the worst in you, and loves you anyhow. Jeremiah 31:3 – “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.”
What do we need to do to EXPERIENCE God’s love? Just RECEIVE it.
The apostle Paul asks this amazing question: “Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Romans 2:4).
That is the way God’s unconditional love works. His kindness leads us to come home. The Bible says, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).
- Perhaps you have been unfaithful to your heavenly Lover.
- You may have wandered far away.
- You may have disgraced yourself.
- Perhaps you think that it is too late,
- or that what you have done cannot be forgiven.
But all you have to do is say, “Lord, I want to come back. I want to come home. I will no longer live in unfaithfulness. I give my myself totally and completely to you.” When you do, you will find his arms open wide.
- Ray Scott
- Rodney Buchanan