Has God ever used your life to be put on display in a way that teaches a lesson? Ever fallen from a great height and had to explain yourself over and over? Give an account for what was happening?
Imagine Hosea. God commands him to marry Gomer, a prostitute, and have children with names that were so odd they must have required explanation every. single. time.
In Hosea, the issue with his wife is that she sees him as another master. Another job. She's been so unloved and so used that she can't expect or allow anything else.
Your past experience shapes the view you have for your future. If you've had your trust broken, you'll always be looking for the next moment or person who will break your trust again. If you grew up in abusive relationships or an abusive home it's hard to imagine peace, much less feel like you deserve it. If you grew up in poverty you would have no idea what it could be like to live without lack and you'd have no clue how to get there. Our experiences are the very things that determine our outlook.
But Gomer doesn't KNOW Hosea. Not in the way the scripture here is used. It's the difference between knowing OF someone and KNOWING someone. Face to face. In person.
Ever followed someone so hard on social media you could see them in the store and catch up on all that's going on in their life? But they sure don't know who you are and you don't really KNOW them, you just know a lot ABOUT them. This was Israel with God. They were like a harlot. They knew who God was- head knowledge. They had heard the stories. But they were so caught up with themselves and other gods that they couldn't imagine Him being anything different than the gods they already worshipped. Their experience wouldn't afford them any other view.
So God uses Hosea's life and marriage and family as an object lesson. He married a woman who might know his name (Hosea means salvation) but she doesn't PERCEIVE what salvation really IS. (OMG THIS IS SO US AT TIMES)... she even took his name. She was his WIFE. But she sees him as another master. Another man who will lay with her and eventually tire of her. Who will use her for his pleasure and then go back home to his real life. And Israel is this harlot. And we are this harlot. "Having a form of godliness, but denying its power."
Ever grow up in a legalistic church? Remember getting saved and how we all went from being slaves to sin into somehow becoming slaves to the law? That is a form of godliness. Having some god-like expressions that only exist on the outside because we limit our salvation to an understanding of dos and donts. Those make sense to us and fit within our experiences, so we gravitate toward (and try to earn) a salvation that is based on what we DO. Paul talks about this extensively. But God is trying to show his people that he longs for them to KNOW him. Not just to know about him and try to "do" Christianity the way we've done everything else, but to leave what we think we know behind and embrace the fact that he is so much bigger. So much deeper. Beyond us. And yet near to us. The love Hosea has for Gomer will not make sense to her, but it will save her and change her once she surrenders to the thing she doesn't understand.
And then come the children. Two sons and a daughter whose names are super awkward. Now, I have two daughters and a son. My sons name is Elliot, but he goes by his middle name which is Boss. Often times people think that's just his nickname and are shocked to find out his name is for real Boss. And so I tell them the story of how we named him, etc. and then there's Fiona. That name doesn't required much explanation although I generally have to assure people that I did NOT name her after the princess from Shrek.
But Vida is a different story. It has to do with the origin of her name. The fact that I'm a white chic with a daughter of both Caucasian and Hispanic descent who looks far more of the latter... and when I tell people who DONT speak Spanish what her name is, it's like, Oh! How pretty! And that's that. For white people, the name Vida sounds like an older, earlier time period name. Like Ethel or Irene or Dorothy and Beatrice or Opal. As a matter of fact, when I was expecting V I met an older white lady whose name was Vida. However when I introduce my daughter to people of Hispanic descent or even ones who are just familiar with the language, I get a different response. Like, slight shock... intrigue. They tend to go, "Vida? Her name is Vida? (And then across the room they yell:) Honey, her name is Vida!!!" They understand the MEANING of her name and it resonates with them.
LIFE. You named your daughter life? That's really pretty. And I know that they're talking about more than just the sound of the name. They're talking about the meaning of the name. Vida Serena. A peaceful life. It's always a special moment to watch that happen.
And then you've got Hosea. Whose kids are named Jezreel, No Mercy, and Not My People.
Can you imagine? "Hi, little cutie pie!!! You're just so adorable with your little pig tails! And what's YOUR name??"
And she's all, "No Mercy."
And over and over again, the story is told of how the very people who are asking this little angel girl her name are going to be judged by God for whoring themselves out to other gods.
Like, that's aggressive. Can you just imagine??? What if you asked a little kid their name, and the kid responds by calling out YOUR SIN.
What's your name little boy?
"GOD SEES ALL THE PORN YOURE HIDING."
I mean, that sounds crazy and MASSIVELY uncomfortable and yet it's exactly what is happening with all three of Hosea's kids their whole lives.
When God assigns the name Jezreel, it's akin to naming your kid Auswitz or Hiroshima. These cities are forever tied to the bloodshed and memory of what happened there. God sent Jehu to Jezreel to kill King Ahab and all his descendants. Ahab was a terrible king and Jezebel, his wife, was instituting Baal worship with the sacrifice of babies. So God used Jehu to judge Ahab and his family. Since that moment, tho, Jehu (who became the next leader) proved that his obedience and zeal for God stopped short at anything but seizing power for himself. Once he gained the throne, Jehu instituted little to no religious reform and continued in the sins of Jeroboam. So Israel had been under this reign (he and 4 generations of sons) and was currently under the reign of Jeroboam II. He was a good leader and Israel was having great economic success, but morally decaying. Baal worship returned. They were building idols on high places. To them, they were probably thinking that it couldn't get any better. Money was good and sex was free. But prophets were speaking out against the idolatry and behavior of Israel and Hosea went and named his son Jezreel, to tell everyone that God was going to bring judgement on the house of Jehu (their current king) much in the same way judgement was carried out against Ahab. He was prophesying a SLAUGHTER.
Not My People... This is the name of the other son. Now, remember. Hosea's wife is a prostitute. This name could point to a very real question Hosea might have been asking. Is this his son? And then I ask myself, what impact did this name have on this boy? On the whispers of people who hear this name and judge Gomer and Hosea constantly? Every time he is called, he questions his identity. Who does he belong to? And every time Hosea says his name he remembers the shadiness of this child's conception and the questions he might still have had with God regarding the issue. These children are daily rehashing the depth of their names.
And not just the kids, but Hosea himself and his prostitute wife are likely explaining the situation over and over. Hosea, using his words as a prophet of God. Meanwhile Gomer is prolly telling whatever lover she's with about her crazy husband who thinks God talks to him and she goes on and on (as women are known to do) about all the crazy stuff he says about the people of Israel, but she's unknowingly declaring God's word TO Israel every time. Have you ever noticed how God will do that? Like, your haters will be talking all kinds of trash about you, but they're still TALKING ABOUT YOU. And they are trying to slander you by talking about how you don't even go OUT anymore and you're not the same guy you used to be and your such a loser because all you do is talk about Jesus and go to church and LAME LAME LAME but they don't realize that they're helping you tell your testimony??? And they don't understand that there is power to overcome they the word of our testimony?!? And God is USING THEM TO MAKE HIS NAME GREAT AND THEY HAVE ZERO CLUE?!?
So Gomer ends up being unfaithful to Hosea and he finally rejects her. His treatment of her (alluded to in Ch 2 but not recorded historically) is to bring her BACK to him, that she would have the same type of moment the prodigal son has where she would come to herself and realize she had it much better with her husband. It's because he loves her and wants her to KNOW him. He remains faithful and God instructs Hosea to pursue her again. Here, he goes and PURCHASES what is ALREADY HIS. She had returned to the only thing she knew, and Hosea went the extra mile to prove his love for her and buys her back, even though he never sold her but she sold herself.
Gomer means completion. This signifies the fullness of sin in Israel, and the fullness of sin in even Gomer. The full satisfaction of desire. This makes sense because she was used, by men, to fully satisfy their wicked desires. They knew if you went to Gomer, you'd go all the way. But whose fault was this? Her fathers name was Diblaim which signifies "double layers of grape cake" and gives an understanding that her father was completely given up to sensuality. So what was she to do? This life was the only life she could have known, and her experiences will determine her outlook and her path.
And isn't this us, until Christ? She would return to her ways because Hosea's offer of marriage and to take her out of her bondage to a life of prostitution would only alleviate the pain of her experience so much. Even though they were wed and even though they had children together, this road with Hosea would not be an escape from a previous life without also being an arduous journey toward something greater, but she fell away because she failed to KNOW Hosea. She stopped at the wedding night. She got to know him just enough to have a ticket out of darkness but not enough to give her new purpose, and so when it became tough (and, like we noticed in the beginning, it was TOUGH- a man who prophesied to Israel about their coming judgement for their sins, all of which she had been a part of... children named after the judgement of God...) she went back. She gave up.
BTW- We mentioned the meaning of everyone else's names... but what of Hosea? Hosea comes from the same word as Yeshua and it means salvation. All this time the salvation was available. Salvation was there. Our savior is with us. He never leaves us, no matter what others call us or what we've called ourselves. All along. Thru every time Gomer left to sell herself as a prostitute again and again, her savior waited patiently. It pained him, but he waited. His love endured. And this is a picture of us and our savior. His enduring love. His never failing love for us. That he could know our every mistake and yet still love us unconditionally. Nothing that we did changes how he sees us. Because who He is never changed. Gomer might have even seen it as laughable when "salvation" showed up at the whorehouse and asked her to be his bride. How ironic. What are you doing here? You think you can save me? I wonder did she really understand what was being offered to her, or was she so caught up in the situation and conditions that surrounded her that she thought, sure I'll try anything twice. And now salvation is here. Even if you've received Christ as your savior, you call yourself a Christian and you're born again, your SAVIOR is here to SAVE you. From yourself. From your conditions. Maybe you don't know him. Maybe you're hearing this and laughing, like Gomer might have done, thinking WHY would salvation be here for ME?
What happens when the enemy reminds you of your past? When the decisions you made back then give birth to reminders in your now? How do you defeat shame and guilt once you've received salvation?
YOU DONT. GOD DOES.
NOTE: Hosea PAID for Gomer. He sold his stuff and purchased her. She was already his wife. He had already chosen her. He didn't operate on such a base level, BUT Gomer saw herself in terms of dollar signs. She was only worth a certain amount. He CAME DOWN TO HER LEVEL and PAID FOR HER. He said, I not only give you my heart and my faithfulness but I will MAKE MYSELF LOW ENOUGH FOR YOU TO UNDERSTAND MY LOVE. Jesus BECAME SIN. He didn't just meet us IN our sin, but he BECAME it. He became the very thing that would separate us from God and then CONQUERED death, hell and the grave TO KNOW YOU! He was SO LOW that God TURNED HIS HEAD!!! God couldn't stand to look at his ONLY SON because Jesus was making himself available to be KNOWN BY YOU. This is the love He has for us! It knew no boundaries! It gave EVERYTHING so that no matter WHAT YOU HAVE DONE or WHATS BEEN DONE TO YOU, You could know the love of the Father and your life could be changed completely!
To complete this entry, I've included this poem by John Piper. Soooo holy cow. I absolutely LOVE poetry and I LOVE words. I just do. This poem wrecks me in the best way! It's not short by any means, but it's worth the beautiful read.
The old man and his wife sat by The winter fire and looked out high Above the plains of Ephraim, And saw around the last regime Of Israel the shadows snake Their way from east to west and take Possession of Samaria. "How long until Assyria,' They thought, "would break Hoshea's rod, And violate the wife of God?"
But strange as it may seem, the doom They saw across the land left room For hope. And when they looked into Each other's eyes, as they would do At night, they knew, as none could know But they, that God would bend his bow Against the charms of foreign men, And take his faithless wife again. They knew it could and would be done, As surely as the rising sun Drives darkness back unerringly, And drowns it in the western sea. They knew, because they had rehearsed The tragedy and played it first Themselves with passion and deceit.
"It's true that life is far more sweet," Hosea thought, "when it is lost, Then bought again at dreadful cost; And love grows strong when it must wait, And deep when it is almost hate."
Such things as these he often said To Gomer as they watched the red And crimson echoes of the sky Descend Mount Tabor's cliffs and die In darkness far below. And she Would say to him, "Your love for me Was like a mountain waterfall, And I the jagged stone. Of all The knives and hammers once applied None made me smooth or clean. They tried, But harlotry was in my blood, Until your love became a flood Cascading over my crude life And kept me as your only wife."
They knew as none but they could know What it would mean that long ago The Lord allowed his love to swell, And married faithless Israel.
The passing of the years now found The children grown and gathered 'round This night: Jezreel and Loammi, Hosea's sons, and at his knee Loruhamah. The room was sweet With memories, and each replete With pleasure and with ample pain. Among the memories one main Experience above the rest Embraced them all. It was the best; Indeed it was the mountain spring Of every happy stream from which The family ever drank, and rich With hope. It was Hosea's love. The children stood in wonder of The way he loved, and Gomer too. But this had not always been true.
Hosea used to say, "It's hard To be a seer, and prophet bard. The price is high when he must sing A song of ruin over everything In lyrics written with his life And lose his children and his wife."
And so it was, Hosea heard The Lord. It was the strangest word A holy prophet ever got: And every pointed precept shot Like arrows at Hosea's life: "Go take a harlot for your wife," Thus says the Lord, "And feel with me The grief and pain of harlotry. Her father's name is Diblaim; He makes fertility with cream And raisin cakes. He will not see Her go without a price, for she Has brought him profits from her trade. Now go, and let her price be paid; And bring her back and let her bear Your son. Call him Jezreel. For there Is coming soon a day when I Will strike and break the bloody thigh Of Jehu's brutal house, and seal With blood the valley of Jezreel.
And after that, though she's defiled. Go in, and get another child, And make your tender face like rock. Call her Loruahmah and lock Your heart against all sympathy: `Not pitied' is her name. No plea From faithless Israel will wake My sympathy till I forsake My daughter in the wilderness.
Now multiply once more distress: Hosea, go beget a son, For there is yet one child to shun, And call him Loammi, in shame, For `Not My People' is his name."
Hosea used to walk along The Jordan rim and sing the song His father Beeri used to sing. Sometimes the tune and truth would bring Him peace, and he would pause and look At all the turns the Jordan took, To make its way down to the sea, And he would chant from memory:
Think not, my son, that God's great river Of love flows simply to the sea, He aims not straight, but to deliver The wayward soul like you and me. Follow the current where it goes, With love and grace it ever flows.
The years went by, the children grew, The river bent and Gomer knew A dozen men. And finally She left and traveled to the sea, And sold herself to foreign priests Who made the children serve at feasts Until they had no shame. And then The God of grace came down again, And said, "Hosea, go, embrace Your wife beside the sea. And place Your hand with blessing on the head Of Loammi, and raise the dead Loruhamah to life in me, And tell Jezreel that I will be For him a seed of hope to sow In righteousness. Hosea, go, The gracious river bends once more."
And so the prophet loved these four Again, and sought them by the sea, And bought them with the equity Of everything he owned. That was The memory tonight, because Hosea loved beyond the way Of mortal man. What man would say, "Love grows more strong when it must wait, And deeper when it's almost hate."
Jezreel spoke softly for the rest, "Father, once more let us be blessed. What were the words from long ago That gave you strength to love us so? Would you please bless us with your rhyme, And sing it for us one more time?"
"Think not, my son, that God's great river Of love flows simply to the sea, He aims not straight, but to deliver The wayward soul like you and me. Follow the current where it goes. With love and grace it ever flows."
"And children," Gomer said with tears, "Mark this, the miracle of years." She looked Hosea in the face And said, "Hosea, man of grace, Dark harlotry was in my blood, Until your love became a flood Cascading over my crude life And kept me as your only wife. I love the very ground you trod, And most of all I love your God."
This is the lamp of candle four: A bride made ready at the door. A shabby slave waits her embrace, Blood-bought and beautified by grace.