I heard about a preacher who had all of his teeth pulled and new dentures were made for him. The next Sunday, he got in the pulpit and only preached for 10 minutes. The second Sunday, he preached for 20 minutes. But, on the third Sunday, he preached for an hour and a half.
When someone asked him about this, he said, “Well, the first Sunday, my gums were so sore it hurt to talk. The second Sunday, my dentures were still hurting a little bit. The third Sunday, I accidentally grabbed my wife’s dentures and I couldn’t stop talking!”
I suppose that all preachers are guilty from time to time of using our wives as illustrative material when we preach. Sueanne will tell you that I have behaved myself pretty well over the past 43 years. Very few times have I made mention of her during a sermon, and most of those times it has been in a very positive way. And even though our children used to cringe every time I started to tell a story about them, I don’t do that very often either.
But there was a preacher in the Old Testament who talked about his wife quite a bit, and he didn’t have very many kind things to say about her. In fact, not only did he talk about her — his marriage to her was part of his sermon. Even the names of his children were a part of his message.
It’s a very unusual story, one that we don’t talk much about, but it’s a story that contains one of the most beautiful messages in all the Bible. It’s the story of Hosea and his wife.
Let’s watch this video that will give us an overview of Hosea, and then I’ll be back to talk about this very unusual marriage.
Watch VIDEO (Hosea)
As this video indicates, Israel was living at a time when people were “living it up” as we might say, and they didn’t have much time for God. And so, their hearts fell away from God and they were no longer trusting God. They were worshiping other heathen gods.
So, Hosea’s message went something like this – Israel, you have sinned and you need to stop. You need to repent and turn back to God. Because if you don’t, God is going to punish you. But if you repent, God will deliver you, he will show you mercy and he will restore you.
And so, in the book of Hosea, we have some good news and we have some bad news. And I want to start with the bad news, so turn with me to chapter 4, starting with verse 6. The Bible says, God is speaking against Israel, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6-7)
So, God is talking to his people, the ones he brought out of Egypt and his people have ignored him. God says, “I’ve given you the Old Testament. I’ve given you these stories, I’ve given you the truths, the laws that you can follow, not as rules and regulations but so you can understand how to maintain a relationship with me. And God says, “I’ve given you all these things, and you have ignored them.”
He said, “I’ve chosen you as my own, but you have rejected me.” “So, because you have ignored me, “God says, “I’m going to ignore you. Because you have rejected me, I’m going to reject you.” Because God says, “You don’t know me. I’m your God and I chose you to be my people and I wrote all these things that tell you about me and my love for you.” But he says, “You don’t know me. In fact, you don’t even want to know me.”
In chapter 6, verse 4, God brings another charge against Israel. At this point, Israel refuses to repent, refuses to change. So, God says, “What should I do with you, Ephraim? What should I do with you, Judah? Your love is like fog in the morning. It disappears as quickly as the morning dew.” (Hosea 6:4)
God says, “Your love for me, your faithfulness is like the morning fog. You get up in the morning and it’s there, but then a short while later, it’s gone.”
Throughout the Bible, we read over and over that God’s love never fails, his love endures forever. And God looks at his people and he says, even though my love endures forever and I’m always faithful to you, you’re not faithful to me. One minute, you’re worshiping me. But then, I turn around and you’re following someone else.
So, first God said, “You don’t know me.” And now he says, “You don’t love me.” I love you and I’ve given myself to you, but you have rejected me. You ignore me. You’re dedicated to me for a while, but then you turn away and leave.
In verse 6, God says, “I want your loyalty, not your sacrifices. I want you to know me, not to give me burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)
You see, God didn’t come to set up a religion. This Bible wasn’t given to us so that we can have a religion. The Bible was given to us so that we can have a relationship. And it’s not just about a bunch of rules to follow. It’s about how do I have a relationship? How do I have a relationship with my Father in Heaven who loves me? And God says you have rejected that relationship and you’ve ignored my laws.
In chapter 13, verse 4. God says, “I am the Lord your God. I brought you out of Egypt.” (Hosea 13:4). God reminds them of a time when the Israelites were slaves in a foreign land, but God said, “I see the oppression of my people and I want to help them. I want to rescue them and deliver them.” So, God came up with a plan.
He said, “Moses I want you to lead my people to be free,” and so Moses goes before Pharaoh. Pharaoh doesn’t want to let the people go, so God brings plagues and those plagues eventually convince Pharaoh to let God’s people go. But then, Pharaoh changed his mind and he said, “Send the army out and destroy those people.” And the Israelite people came up to this great sea, and they’re trapped, and then God parts the water so that the people can pass through on dry ground.
God reminds them of this here in this verse. I am the LORD your God, I’m the one who did that. You didn’t come up with that plan on your own. I brought you out of Egypt. And then he says, “You have known no god besides me. There is no savior except me. I took care of you in the desert, in a dry land. When I fed you, you were full. When you were full, you became arrogant. That is why you forgot me.” (Hosea 13:5-6)
God says not only did I deliver you from Egypt, but when you were hungry in the desert, as you were wandering around, I fed you. And when you were thirsty and didn’t know where to find drink, I provided water for you. I met your every need. He says, “But then you became satisfied and got everything you wanted, and that’s when you forgot me.”
And there’s this vicious cycle that goes on throughout the Old Testament where God calls people to follow him and they respond and they sing songs of praise like we sing and they love God and then a little time passes, and they begin to go their own way and forget all about God.
God wants Israel to see the seriousness of their sin. So, in Hosea 4-14, he paints this picture of disobedience, this cycle of disobedience. But even through all of this, God says, “But even with all; your sin, I still love you and I want to take care of you. I want you back.”
So that’s the bad news – Israel was living in sin. So now let’s turn back to the first few chapters and look at the good news, because Hosea 1-3 sums up in a beautiful way the message of the gospel, the good news.
I. Hosea’s Personal Life
It begins in chapter when God came to Hosea and he said, “I want you to get married.” I think it’s safe to say that most of us, when we were dating, had a list of qualifications that we were looking for in a potential mate. I heard one preacher say that he was looking for a woman with the three G’s – genuine, gentle, and godly. He said, though that, if he were honest, he was also looking for a 4th G – gorgeous.
But I think if we were to write down in a list the things that we were most looking for a mate, we would totally overlook the one characteristic that we were most looking for. Because, at the top of my list, and I suspect at the top of yours, I was looking for someone whop would love me. What good would it do to find someone who was genuine, gentle, godly and even gorgeous, if they don’t love you.
And I think if you peel back the surface of what we all chase in relationships, it comes down to this: we want somebody to love us. We just want to love someone and be loved back. And that’s what makes the story of Hosea so tragic.
God said to Hosea, “I have a girl picked out for you.” Her name was Gomer. I know, it’s hard not to snicker when you hear her name. It’s not a very feminine name and it doesn’t conjure up a beautiful image in your mind, but Gomer was probably a very beautiful woman.
God said to Hosea, “Go and marry an unfaithful woman.” (Hosea 1:2, NCV). God said, “Before you get married, I want you to know the whole story about this girl. I want you to marry her, but understand she is going to be unfaithful to you; but I want you to marry her anyway.”
I would imagine that Hosea was a bit confused by this command but he obeyed. And it would appear that he truly loved Gomer. They were married. And I suspect that, at first, it was a wonderful marriage. Hosea loved this girl more than life itself. You can’t read this story without seeing that. They must have been extremely happy together, and then they had children — two boys and a girl.
Then Gomer began to fulfill the prediction that God had made about her. It must have been heartbreaking for Hosea to hear the whispers that began to circulate about his wife and about what happened while he was away on preaching trips. Perhaps even his own children made some remarks about the men who visited when Daddy was away. And before long, the children were neglected while Gomer spent all her time running around with these other men.
And then one day, Hosea came home and he found a “Dear John” letter. His wife decided to find the happiness she felt she deserved, and she was leaving him and the children to follow the man she really loved.
And so, Hosea said to his children, “Plead with your mother. Accuse her, because she is no longer my wife, and I am no longer her husband. Tell her to stop acting like a prostitute, to stop behaving like an unfaithful wife…Their mother has acted like a prostitute; the one who became pregnant with them has acted disgracefully. She said, ‘I will chase after my lovers, who give me my food and water, wool and flax, wine and olive oil.’” (Hosea 2:2,5-6, NCV)
It sounds like the premise for a Jerry Springer show – “Minister’s Wife Acts Like a Prostitute.” And you can imagine how betrayed Hosea felt, knowing that the wife he loved, the wife who had promised to be faithful to him till death, was sleeping around with all these different men.
Hosea may have been a prophet of God, but he was still a man. And even though he had been forewarned what to expect, I have to believe that he was hurt by Gomer’s unfaithfulness as deeply as any other husband or wife whose marriage vows have been broken.
It was a terribly painful experience. But God used it as an illustration of his own relationship with Israel. You see, when God brought his people out of Egypt, he entered into a covenant relationship with them. He promised to take care of them, and the people of Israel promised that they would follow God. Their vow to God was similar to a marriage vow — they solemnly swore to be faithful to God forever.
But, like Gomer, the people of Israel failed to keep their vows when they entered Canaan, a land that was filled with a lot of other gods. And it didn’t take long for the Israelites to become unfaithful to their vows. Israel committed spiritual adultery by leaving her husband – God — and going after her various “lovers” — the Canaanite gods.
And the worst part of it was, Israel was giving thanks to those heathen gods for the blessings that the Lord God was giving her! “For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold — which they prepared for Baal.” (Hosea 2:8).
Israel was receiving all these blessings from God, then they were going out and worshiping and giving their gifts to Baal. So, Hosea tells Israel, “You’ve been unfaithful to God. You’ve committed spiritual adultery.”
What does a husband do when his wife says she’s going to leave? He has no choice but to let her go. All three of Hosea’s children had significant names, but their third child – a son – was named Lo-Ammi (1:9) which means “not my people”.
The reason God told Hosea to name his child that was God was saying to Israel — “For you are not my people, and I will not be your God.” (Hosea 1:9). Because of Israel’s decision to leave God, God would no longer claim Israel as his own. Basically, God divorced his people on grounds of unfaithfulness. And so they would no longer be known as his people.
But that’s not the end of the story. Let’s go back to Hosea and Gomer, because what happens next makes absolutely no sense. Even with everything that she had done to hurt him, Hosea still loved Gomer and he wanted her back.
How long Gomer was unfaithful we don’t know, but at some point Hosea received word that the woman he loved was going to be sold as a slave in the marketplace.
“The LORD said to me again, ‘Go, show your love to a woman loved by someone else, who has been unfaithful to you …” (Hosea 3:1, NCV)
I want you to imagine how Hosea must have felt when God said, “Go get this woman back.” There was probably a part of him that wanted her back. But I’m sure there was another part of him who wondered why he should put himself in a position to be hurt and humiliated again.
But Hosea went to the marketplace and he watched Gomer brought up and placed up on the stand. Then the bidding began. Somebody bid three pieces of silver and Hosea raised it to five. Somebody else upped it to eight and Hosea bid ten. Somebody went to eleven; he went to twelve. When it was all over, Hosea had offered fifteen pieces of silver and ten bushels of barley. And Hosea had his wife back.
Hosea went to her, took her hand and led back to his home. And there’s a beautiful verse where Hosea said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days; you shall not play the harlot, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” (Hosea 3:3b, RSV)
Hosea pledged his love to her anew. He said, “I love you. I am committed to you. I will be faithful to you, I will always be there for you, I will take care of you and provide for you. All I ask that you be faithful to me.”
I don’t know what effect all of this had on Gomer — we’re not told. I would like to think that the love of Hosea overwhelmed her so much that she was brought to tears. The realization that Hosea loved her so much that, in spite of everything that she had done to hurt him, he was still willing to pay the price to take her back as his own. I want so much to believe that the love of this man had such an impact that, from that time onward, Gomer was faithful to Hosea.
But we don’t know. And it’s really not all that important because ultimately the message of Hosea isn’t about Hosea at all. It’s about God’s love for Israel.
How God responded to the unfaithfulness of his wife Israel, just like Hosea did. Just like Gomer, Israel had walked out on God. She had given herself completely over to idols. By all accounts, she deserved to be abandoned and punished for her infidelity. But God’s love wouldn’t give up on Israel. By grace, he charted a course designed to bring his wife home again and to restore the relationship to what it should have been. And he was willing to pay whatever price was necessary to get her back.
“‘And it shall be in that day,’ says the Lord, ‘that you will call me “my husband”, and no longer call me “my master”…..I will betroth you to me forever; yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.'” (Hosea 2:16,19-20).
God says to his people, “I know what you’ve done. I know how you’ve turned your back on me. But I’m willing to forgive you. I’m willing to restore you to the relationship that we once had. More than anything else in this world, I want you to be mine again.”
“Then I will say to those who were not my people, “You are my people!” and they shall say, “You are my God!”‘” (Hosea 2:23).
But there was a condition involved — Israel would have to sincerely repent and promise to be faithful in the future. Sadly enough, Israel never met that condition.
So, what is the lesson of Hosea for us today? I close with three points
The first is this: God’s love is unreasonable. Part of that is the very nature of love. Love doesn’t always act in a logical manner. What God asked Hosea to do didn’t make sense. But then again, God’s love for Israel didn’t make sense either. The difficult question in this book is not why would God ask Hosea to marry Gomer, but why would God want to marry Israel.
Why would God commit himself to a group of people that he knew would be unfaithful to him? It doesn’t make sense. If it were up to us, we would insist of choosing someone who we know is going to love us back. We would look for someone that we believed would be faithful to us. But God chose a people that he knew in advance would be unfaithful.
There are times when we have all been unfaithful to God. Times when we took all the blessings that God gave us, and we went our own way to enjoy them, without giving any thought to God. And yet in spite of our unfaithfulness, God did something that was completely irrational — he kept loving us, and he was willing to pay a huge price to buy us back out of our slavery to sin.
Peter says, “…you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
It doesn’t make sense that God would love us that much. His love is unreasonable.
But there’s a second thing we learn here: God’s love is willing to let us go. Hosea never downplayed the wrong Gomer had done to him. His love had been betrayed. And when Gomer no longer wanted anything to do with him and insisted on being unfaithful to him, Hosea let her go, knowing that she would suffer, knowing that she would be used and abused. But Gomer had to live out the consequences of her wrong choices. And if we insist on being unfaithful to God, God will let us go, and he will let us suffer the consequences of our choices.
The third thing we learn is this: God’s love will always want us back. We often give up on people. Some of us write others off when our love or trust has been betrayed. But God is different. The Lord said to Hosea, “‘Go, show your love to a woman loved by someone else, who has been unfaithful to you. In the same way the LORD loves the people of Israel, even though they worship other gods…” (Hosea 3:1, NCV)
It would have been one thing if Gomer had committed one foolish, little mistake. Hosea could have excused that. But even after Hosea confronted Gomer, she continued to be brazen in her sin. She flaunted it. She forgot everything Hosea had ever done for her. But still, God told him to buy her back out of slavery. And God asked Hosea to do that because that’s what God does. God’s love is unconditional.
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’s our nature to run from God, and it’s God’s nature to pursue us. Hosea assures us that 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, God wants you back and he sees you as his beloved bride.
Perhaps, this morning, you realize that you’ve been unfaithful to the one you made a vow to. You may have wandered far away. You may have disgraced yourself. Perhaps you think that what you’ve done can never be forgiven. But God not only wants you to come back – he has gone to great lengths to buy you back.
And he says to you what Hosea said to Gomer, “I know what you’ve done. I know how you’ve turned your back on me. But I’m ready to forgive you. I’m willing to restore you to the relationship that we once had. More than anything else in this world I want you to be mine again. All I ask is that you promise to be faithful to me.”