I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord. Hosea 2: 19 – 20
There have been many beautiful love stories told throughout history, but there is a much more beautiful one that has such a deeper meaning than just the usual story of romance and intrigue. It is found tucked within the pages of the book of Hosea in the Old Testament.
Hosea was a man of God, faithful and devoted to serving Him, and he is remembered for being one of the 12 minor prophets who tried to warn His people of what was to come. He lived in the northern kingdom of Israel during the 8th century when her people were once again turning their backs on God by worshipping false gods, living immoral lives, and disobeying Him.
It is Hosea’s own story of how he came to be with the woman he loved so deeply – regardless of the cost to him personally. But even more, it is God’s story to His people during this time and to us of how much he loves us so completely and unconditionally. Most assuredly, He used this love story of Hosea and Gomer to touch our hearts and convey this message even more.
While speaking to Hosea, the Lord told him to take a wife – not just any wife, but an adulterous one from among His people. Hosea must have felt his heart drawn to Gomer for they soon married and she had 3 children. We can only imagine how he must have hoped that he could change her with his love and that she would become a devoted, loving wife and mother. But that was not to be.
At some point, she must have become restless and unhappy, or maybe she felt herself unworthy to be the wife of a man of God, or perhaps she felt shame for conceiving children while being unfaithful, but whatever the reason, she returned to a life of prostitution.
Perhaps Hosea had been unsure of her all during their marriage and wondered if she had been unfaithful to him, and even if the children were his. How his heart must have ached as her absences from home became more and more frequent and prolonged, and how Hosea must have grieved as he waited for her return. How often he must have gone in search of her on the streets, found her with someone else and brought her back home. How he must have begged her through tears to think of the children and to be faithful to their family. How many times he must have taken her back in loving forgiveness, only for her to betray him again.
Eventually, it must have become too much for Gomer, and she left and did not return. With all the pain she had caused, surely this would have been enough for Hosea to want to forget her and not forgive her for what she had done to his heart and soul, and to his life. But Hosea could not and would not forget her.
In some way, he must have learned that she was living with another man who later deserted her, and he must have felt desperate to know what had become of the woman he had loved so dearly. He longed to bring her home. How he must have worried about her well-being. Even though he must have felt so betrayed, saddened, disappointed, embarrassed, and even angry, he desperately missed her and cared deeply about her.
He raised the children, ministered to His people, and tried to warn them of the consequences of their sin, but he never forgot Gomer nor did he stop loving her. Surely only one who knows the love and forgiveness of God could love this completely and unconditionally.
After a time (we have no idea how long), how relieved he must have been when God came to him again with the message, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress.” (Hosea 3: 1).
God must have led him to her, for he found Gomer on the open trade sex market – ragged, dirty, torn, sick, disheveled, and destitute. He bought her at the price of 30 shekels, and brought her home. According to the law at the time, he had every legal right to divorce her or have her killed, but instead, he bought her with every last penny he had and all of the barley he owned. She had betrayed him, torn his family apart, shamed and humiliated him, but yet he loved her still. He could and would not give up on her.
He made a vow that he would always love and care for her, but he asked these things of her in return – and that was that she would be faithful to him, that she would let him love her exclusively, and that she would depend on him for all her needs. He asked that he alone would be her source of security and love.
We aren’t told the end of their story, but we can only hope that with time, their marriage was restored and that Hosea’s forgiving love changed her heart. What a story it is – and one of such love and forgiveness!
Hosea’s life with Gomer is symbolic of God’s relationship with the people of Israel. They, like Gomer, had rejected Him and been unfaithful to their commitment to honor and serve Him. More than any other prophet, Hosea conveys not only God’s anger with His people, His sadness, and weariness at their continual disobedience in the midst of His divine love and care, His willingness to let them suffer the consequences of their actions, but also, His patient, loving desire to restore them to Him with His love and grace.
Hosea 2: 2 – 23 is a powerful, moving metaphor of both the relationships between Hosea and Gomer, and God and His people. Just as Hosea made a vow to Gomer to love her if she would be faithful to him, God made the same covenant to the people of Israel, and He has certainly kept His promise to them.
Yet, many believe their complete restoration is yet to come. How many times I have thought of how this small nation placed in the midst of so much hatred and violence has been able to survive as long as it has. Surely it is by His love and grace. How patient God is with His people, as He waits for their hearts to be changed and for them to accept His Son. Scripture promises this will come.
The story of Hosea not only mirrors God’s constant love, forgiveness, and devotion to His people then, but also to us today, as well. Gomer didn’t deserve Hosea’s love or forgiveness, and neither did the people of Israel, and neither do we.
How often we fail to honor God and go outside our relationship with Him to seek other things to fill our longings. But His desire is to always bring us back to Him – the price has already been paid for us on the cross. And if we will return to Him, love Him and no other, and serve Him faithfully, He will restore us with His forgiveness and the assurance of His love and blessings, just as Hosea paid the price for Gomer and brought her back to him.
God’s covenant and promises to us will always be secure. He will give us His unconditional, redemptive, all consuming love and compassion forever, for His vow to us is for all eternity. “If we will only acknowledge Him, as surely as the sun rises, He will appear to us. He will come to us like the winter and spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6: 3)
*(If you haven’t read Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers, you should do so. It is an incredible book inspired by the story of Hosea and Gomer, and it will touch your heart. What a message you will receive!)
Dear God, what a beautiful story of your amazing love and grace. Thank you for always seeking us, forgiving us, redeeming us, loving us, and bringing us back to you when we know we don’t deserve it. May we be just as forgiving and loving to those around us, and not judgmental or condemning. Thank you for your compassion on us and for your faithfulness to us. We give you all honor and praise. Amen