When we left off yesterday, we were at Hosea 2:14-23; it's a beautiful song of love for the people of Israel, and for us.
We saw from the verses in Romans and I Peter, that the opportunity is there for us to be children of God. We are all like Gomer -- we've sinned and strayed. But God is ready to forgive, and to separate us from our sins, as far as the east is from the west.
Let's dig in . . .
Here are the verses again, so that you won't have to scroll down to read them again:
Let's look at the first thing that God says He will do. He will call to us tenderly. See verse fourteen?
We are guilty of the sin of harlotry -- by that, I mean that we've loved other things, people, whatever, more than we have loved God. We've paid more attention. We've devoted more time. We've invested more of our money, and more of ourselves. After all, being fully invested in Him can get annoying, right? That football game that we can't watch, because there's a church service or event scheduled. That dinner party we can't attend, because they're counting on us to complete our duties at church. Those people we shouldn't be close friends and boon companions with, because it would mess up our testimony, and might drag us down instead of lifting them up. The boat/new car/awesome clothes (insert what you wish there) that we can't afford, because we have to give financially to the church.
Ummm, there's a flip side here. Turn it over. Look. Instead of being enslaved to the world, to wealth, to ambition, or to sin, we can be close to God (and free from slavery), Who only wants what is truly beneficial for us. In spite of our sins, and in spite of our inattention, He hasn't cast us aside. In fact, He wants to be close to us. We are never too ugly, or too sinful, or too rotten for God. He knows we are harlots. He knows we're sinners.
That is what mercy means . . .
Next, God promises in His song that there is hope and safety with Him. Check out verse 15 -- oh, wait, let's refresh our memory of the significance of the valley of Achor.
Remember back in the book of Joshua, when the angel of the Lord appeared to Joshua? He gave him full instructions on how to carry out the battle for Jericho, and what to do with the people, the animals, the gold and silver vessels, etc. He also told Joshua just why he should follow these instructions to the letter, and Joshua relayed the importance of these things to the people. The battle went well, and the people followed God's directions, destroying everything (except Rahab and her family, and the vessels for the tabernacle).
(Cue the ominous music here.) One person did not do as he was told. He thought no one knew. But God did, and He stepped aside as they went up against the next city, Ai. Then it became obvious to everyone that someone had sinned, for the people were beaten, and many were killed.
To make a long story short, Achan confessed his greed (once the lot was cast and they figured out it was him) and both the loot and he were destroyed. The people confessed their sin and renewed their covenant with God. The children of Israel referred to things that were troublesome after that as a "valley of Achor," or a "valley of trouble."
For Achan and his family, the valley of Achor meant death, but for the rest of the people, there was a renewal of hope and trust in God. So in this song, God says He will give sinners hope and safety. If only we will "come home" to Him, He will make things good for us -- the analogy in verse 18 says that He will remove all violence and conflict, even causing the animals to do no harm.
The last thing we see in this passage is that He will renew the relationship we share with Him. A new foundation will be laid; we'll start with righteousness, love, mercy, and faithfulness. Things will be "right" between us and our Lord.
Think about the temptation it must have been for Hosea, or for any wronged spouse. Can I trust him/her again? He hurt me so badly before. She ran off and left me and the kids. He was unfaithful, how can I be close to him? The reality is that the person who's been hurt will tend to keep the hurtful person at arm's length, not allow too much trust. But God is oh, so different. He won't keep us at arms' length because of our past sins. He will fellowship and commune with us.
The story of Gomer is a gospel story in the Old Testament; it's the meaning of Christmas laid out for us to read, and it happened seven centuries before Jesus came. God speaks to us tenderly and calls us to Him; He promises us hope and safety, and He offers full fellowship and communion with sinners who will come.
OK. But how do we "qualify" for this? The good news is that when we think about our failures in 2016, we can also think about the fact that God already knows about them, too. He's not naive. How little time we've spent in His Word, how burdensome it has felt sometimes to spend time in prayer, how the world has occupied more of our time than He has . . . yep, He knows all that. And the fact remains, we don't have to qualify for His love and mercy. If we did, none of us would make it! He just wants us to listen and respond.
We are Gomers. And God is calling. He wants our hearts, and He has given His all. Let's renew our commitment to Him as we begin this Christmas season.