Hosea: We Are All Gomers

We are starting our study on the Minor Prophets tonight with Hosea.  I would encourage you to read Hosea 1-3, and consider the following:

Hosea is the perfect opening book for the minor prophets because it clearly shows the relationship between the redeeming power of God and the radically depraved nature of man.  If you read through this book in one sitting (you should, it is very brief), you should come away wondering, “Why did God order Hosea to take Gomer to be his wife?”  This is a normal question.  After all, Hosea is a prophet of God and Gomer is a prostitute.  This is not the marriage Christian parents encourage their children to mimic.  But what if I told you that Hosea was actually doing this in order to show God’s people who He was and what He was like?  I believe that is exactly what you see here, and the first three chapters clearly lay this out.
Lets consider Hosea 1:1-9 for a moment:
1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. 2 When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” 3 So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. 4 And the LORD said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.” 6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. 7 But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.” 8 When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. 9 And the LORD said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.” 
What we notice right away is that Hosea is not prophesying to the people a message from God like we expect prophets to do.  Instead, Hosea is told by God to go and do something, specifically, take a prostitute to be your wife.  Why did God use Hosea like this?  Because being a prophet was not just declaring who God was through words.  Sometimes prophets were to demonstrate this by certain actions, and so God is using Hosea to declare a message to His people.  The message? Who He is and what He is like.
So right away, we see that God is a God who is in intimate relationship with His people as he makes Hosea go and marry a woman.  The only way God could give even an analogy to how He relates to us was through this bond of marriage.  But God makes Hosea go beyond just marrying someone, he makes Hosea marry a whore.  The implications of marrying a whore are pretty grim: As soon as you take her to be your wife, she will leave you, cheat on you, love other men more than you, find her satisfaction with others, lack appreciation for you, and she will make you the biggest punchline in the whole town.  This last point really gets overlooked, but consider being a known prophet of God; you are respected and thought to be favored by God.  And then you marry the town prostitute?  How does this show us who God is and what He is like?  Consider this: Unless Hosea feels these horrible pains from the implications in the most intimate relationship a person can have, he will not understand what it is like to be God and in relationship with His people.  Unless Hosea feels the pain of being utterly humiliated by the one who is supposed to love him and care for him, he will not understand the heart of God.
God could have used Hosea to proclaim what this relationship was like, to proclaim the intimacy, pain and betrayal, but instead he makes Hosea experience it.  Why? Tim Keller uses an illustration that captures this issue:  Imagine that there is this remote island where a child is born where there is no sugar.  There are people on the island who have tasted sugar a long time ago, and they remember it tasting sweet, and so as this child grows up, he hears of this substance called sugar and has been taught that it is sweet.  If someone were to ask this child, “Is sugar sweet?” he would answer,”Yes,” and he would be correct.  Now what would happen if a plane dropped off food to this island, and it just so happened that in this pallet of food there was a bag of sugar, and this child was able to taste this sugar he had heard about.  What would happen if someone again asked him, “Is sugar sweet?”  Would his answer be any different?  On the face of it, nothing changes.  Sugar is still sweet.  But there is a difference in knowing the answer personally.  This child can say, “I know that sugar is sweet.  I have tasted it, and I personally know what it is like.”
Here’s the thing: To truly know God, you must personally experience Him.  How many times have you heard people talk about God’s love and forgiveness, our sin, Jesus, and the Gospel and felt nothing?  How often have you comprehended those phrases or words, but failed to personally know what they mean?  The danger we constantly face is that we turn who God is into propositions and blockade any chance of having personal experience of the God who interacts with you.  The Reformed tradition is weary of mentioning concepts like “experiencing God” because it fears elevating experience/emotion to (or above) the level of Scripture.  This is a valid concern, but unless you have personal knowledge of who He is and what He has done, you are like a person who has never tasted sugar and says it is sweet.
Hosea is giving us a glimpse not only of who God is, but how we can know Him by pointing to his marriage with Gomer and saying, ” He is as connected to you as you are to your spouse.  This is how God personally relates to you: you are His bride, you are His Gomer.”
If you only read the first three verses of Hosea, you might think this that being Gomer is great: you were once a prostitute, but you have been redeemed through marrying a prophet of God, and now you have born a son!  But then you get to verse four where the son is named Jezreel, meaning, God scatters, and things all of a sudden don’t look so bright for you.  Notice that as Gomer goes on to conceive two more children, the text does not say that whose the children are.  I believe this is indicating that these children are not Hosea’s (just look at the difference in how the child was declared Hosea’s in verse three compared to verses six and eight).  We see that the marriage to Hosea did not change Gomer’s ways, and she is still a whore.  She shamefully is having children with other men, and Yahweh is naming them No Mercy and Not My People.  Thing are not looking good for this marriage, and it gets even worse in chapter two.
Hosea 2:5-8
5 For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’ 6 Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. 7 She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’ 8 And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal.
What is going on in these verses is a double entendre (double meaning), where Hosea’s words are applied not only to God and His people, but with Hosea and Gomer.  Here is where we see that we are like Gomer: We go after other lovers because we think they give us what we need and want; while we go after these desires, we never truly find them and we are left wanting to the point where we wish to go back to the One who we know can supply what we truly need (but we cannot seem to find the way); and we never realize that the whole time, we were (and still are) being supported by our true love.  Verse eight truly reveals the depth of Gomer’s blindness in that she does not even recognize that all of these things she has received come from Hosea.  Instead, she believes these gifts are coming from her abusers until she ends up on the trading block as a washed up, overused prostitute
Hosea 3
1 And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. 3 And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” 4 For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. 5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.
Here we have the scene of Gomer on the auction block.  She would have been standing naked on the auction block for everyone to see just how ragged and worn out she was, being sold because she had no use left.  It would be hard to picture a more dehumanizing event for a person.  But Gomer is not the only one who is embarrassed: she still is married to Hosea.  How embarrassing this would be for Hosea!  His wife is publicly on display, naked and waiting to be purchased for pennies on the dollar.  As he walks down the street, people will say, “I slept with that prophet of God’s wife.”  We are left wondering, “How can this demonstrate to us who God is and what He is like?”  What we have in this section of Hosea is a clear picture of what our adultery towards God is like.  We are like Gomer in that we continually commit spiritual adultery with the idols of our heart.  What God is saying to His people through Hosea  is, “This is  what it is like when My people sin against Me.”
The question we must ask ourselves is “Do we believe that?”  Do you believe that your spiritual adultery is like Gomer’s?  Often we consider our sin on some sort of scale, with “big” sins on one end and “lesser” sins on the other, and as long as we stay only towards one side of the scale, we are seen as more worthy of God’s love and righteousness.  Why do we do this?  We lack the weightiness of our sin because we have removed the personal-ness.  Sin is not personal to us, especially with the “lesser” sins.  We look at our sins of judgment and gossiping about someone with our friends or spouse and think that it is not that big of a deal (At least I did not commit adultery).  This is where the story of Hosea and Gomer shows us how wrong we are for thinking like this, because when Gomer cheated over and over again on Hosea, she wasn’t just breaking a rule, she was breaking Hosea’s heart.  Her repeated adultery was crushing him, emasculating him, making him a laughingstock, and a failure.
When you read this story and realize this describes the relationship you have with God, that you are Gomer, it must force you to readjust your understanding of your sin and the pain it causes God.  When you whore yourselves out to your spiritual idols, it breaks God’s heart.  So what lovers are you whoring yourself out to?  Another way of asking the question is, What do you love?  Where is your love going?  In my area of focus in ministry with youth (and previously with college students), the answers were: body image, social acceptance, lust, the hope to love someone and be affirmed, and achievement/grades.  Notice how these areas are not: getting drunk, using drugs, committing murder, or adultery.  Why is that?  They are seen as the sins which everyone knows are wrong.  The danger that many young (heck, old ones too) Christians fall into is thinking that as long as you don’t commit the “big” sins, you will be fine, which leads to the though that we just have to be good people.  Here is the problem: You can be good and be Gomer. (I wish I could take credit for this phrase, but I have heard it said by countless pastors before me)
So what does this mean for you and me?  That we must view our sin as adultery before God, and that we break his heart every time we sin just like Hosea’s heart was broken by Gomer’s adultery.  By doing this, a number of things happen: First, it allows you to admit that you bring nothing to the table in terms of your righteousness.  Gomer was not a righteous woman; she was dirty and shameful.  Also, it allows you to see that all sin is worthy of God’s wrath and judgment; there is no scale of sins that deserve more damnation than others.  Finally, understanding that you are Gomer keeps you from cheapening the grace of God.  If you think you are not as bad as Gomer, that you are not that bad of a person, you will not truly understand and appreciate the grace of God that covers your sins by the death of His Son.  In fact, if you do not think you are Gomer, you will find it impossible to truly know who God is because He is not only a God of glory and justice, but also of grace.
This clearly comes out as we look at Hosea 3 and see that God’s response to Hosea is to go again to his wife, and love her even though she is an adulteress woman.  Even though she has loved other men and their gods, Hosea is to go to the auction and buy her back.  And so we come to verse two, as Hosea is at the auction, his wife standing naked before everyone.  The humiliation not only is felt by Gomer, who is shamefully on display as someone who no one wants, but Hosea as well.  His spouse has been so unfaithful that she no longer is seen as having worth as a prostitute.  This is the complete opposite of the Proverbs 31 woman.  Yet, when the bidding begins, Gomer hears a familiar voice, who does not offer a bid of a shekel or two, but fifteen shekels of silver, a homer, and a lethech of barley.  That is an enormous sum to pay for Gomer, but her faithful husband pays it gladly.  He buys her back at a price for a purpose, to redeem her.
Notice that Hosea’s intention in buying her back is not to shame her and put her in her place, but to love her and protect her.  He tells her that she is to dwell with him for many days, that she is not to keep playing the whore or be with others.  Why is he doing this?  Because she has a horrible sin pattern that she in bondage to, and she needs to be set free.  He has to address those issue and help her recover from them.  It would be foolish for him to buy her back and then let her continue in her ways.  We see that Hosea is committed to being Gomer’s husband, and he is willing to go forgive and help recover this woman because he loves her.  He loves her so much that it is painful to allow her to stay in the situation she currently is in.  What we see here is Hosea bringing back his adulteress wife in order to restore her.  That is what verse three is all about!
If we admit that we are Gomer, that we are unlovable and irredeemable in who we are, then there is hope because of the Gospel.  We are the bride of Christ who has committed spiritual adultery, yet he does not divorce us.  He does not buy us back so he can scold us and beat us into shape.  Instead, God sends His Son in the flesh to redeem and save us.  Jesus Christ becomes the God-man, He humiliates himself by having to take a true body and reasonable soul, He is held under the very laws He created, and dies a shameful death so that all of our spiritual whoredom could be paid for.  He buys back the unfaithful bride.  Why?  To redeem and restore us just like Hosea does for Gomer.
This is the beautiful story of the Gospel that is found throughout the Bible.  The question is: Is this the God of the Bible that you know?  Or is your God of the Bible an angry task-master God who demands you keep the rules or you will burn in Hell?  It is clear that God pursues his people and graciously calls them and redeems them through His grace.  He demands perfection, but because Jesus Christ, the bridegroom, died on the cross for all of your spiritual adultery, you are clothed in His perfection and righteousness.  That is the blessing for all of us who are Gomer’s, but have been bought back by their faithful husband.
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