Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Gomer - redeeming love, continued


We're studying the faithless wife of the prophet Hosea this week; her name is Gomer. We are ready now to start chapter two.
Starting in verse two, Hosea speaks of his wife, but it is just as if God is speaking to His faithless people, His bride, the people of Israel:
Rebuke your mother, rebuke her,    for she is not my wife,    and I am not her husband.Let her remove the adulterous look from her face    and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts. Otherwise I will strip her naked    and make her as bare as on the day she was born;
I will make her like a desert,    turn her into a parched land,    and slay her with thirst. I will not show my love to her children,    because they are the children of adultery. Their mother has been unfaithful    and has conceived them in disgrace.She said, ‘I will go after my lovers,    who give me my food and my water,    my wool and my linen, my olive oil and my drink.’ Therefore I will block her path with thorn bushes;    I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them;    she will look for them but not find them.
Then she will say,    ‘I will go back to my husband as at first,
    for then I was better off than now.’ She has not acknowledged that I was the one    who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil,
who lavished on her the silver and gold    which they used for Baal. “Therefore I will take away my grain when it ripens,    and my new wine when it is ready.I will take back my wool and my linen,    intended to cover her naked body. So now I will expose her lewdness    before the eyes of her lovers;
    no one will take her out of my hands. I will stop all her celebrations:    her yearly festivals, her New Moons,    her Sabbath days—all her appointed festivals. I will ruin her vines and her fig trees,    which she said were her pay from her lovers;
I will make them a thicket,    and wild animals will devour them. I will punish her for the days    she burned incense to the Baals;
she decked herself with rings and jewelry,    and went after her lovers,
    but me she forgot,declares the Lord. (Hosea 2:2-13)
Kinda hard to read, no? But then, we live in a day when the wrath of God and the consequences of sin are downplayed. Soft-pedaled. Even ignored.

Hosea is back where he started; he isn't thinking of Israel as the violent child, Jezreel, or as the two children whose fathers are unknown, as he did in chapter one. Now he is thinking of Israel again as a wife who has been unfaithful to her husband.  In chapter two, Hosea and God are speaking together about the faithlessness of their wives and about the judgment that will come upon them.

Three of these verses are key here: first, verse 5 says that "she said she would go after her lovers, who gave her bread, water, wool, flax, oil, and drink."  Verse 8 notes that she didn't acknowledge that the grain, wine, oil, silver and gold were all lavished on her by her husband (not her lovers). And finally, verse 13 says that she kept feasts, burned incense, and forgot her husband.

What a tragedy we see in the lives of the people of Israel! God wants to be her true husband, but Israel is a harlot, loving other gods, and performing horrific rituals to worship them. All that Israel has, she got from God, but she keeps thinking the goodies are coming from Baal. And lastly, we see that He will not be forgotten -- not without consequence; Israel will receive her punishment, for she has been told time and time again.

Are we Christians guilty of this in our own day? Do we love other "gods" more than we love the Father? Do we go blithely along our way, never acknowledging His blessings? Do we attribute the good things in our lives to our own hard work, or to chance? Oy vey.

The next verses are one of the most tender and beautiful love songs in the Bible, and it's sung by God to His unfaithful wife, Israel.
But right before we talk about that, let's skip briefly over to chapter three, and take up Gomer's story again.

Standing on the block, high above the crowd, Gomer looks down through half-closed eyes. Even for her, this is embarrassing. She feels hot all over, and ashamed. The auctioneer is chanting, poking her and making her turn around for all the buyers to see what's left of her former beauty. Her lovers have left her, and she has nowhere to turn. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees a familiar form pushing his way through the crowd. She'd know him anywhere -- hadn't she loved and lost him? Played the fool, she realizes now. It is Hosea, and though he doesn't have the full purchase price, he is ready to make up the difference in the silver with some grain, and purchase her at slave's price, before someone else does.

By our standards today, Hosea should have been free, right? Gomer had run off and lived with another man (maybe more than one man). He can get a divorce now. No?
No!
God wouldn't give up on Israel, and He instructs Hosea to symbolize His undying love to His wife of promiscuity. He tells Hosea to go and love his faithless wife again. So, Hosea buys her for fifteen shekels of silver, and barley enough to make up the rest (usual price for a woman slave was thirty shekels of silver).
God asked Hosea to do this, so that we could glimpse what God's love for us, as wretched sinners, is like. Gomer had been faithless all along, and finally had gone off with another man. Hosea could even have had her stoned, by the law. And see, we stand condemned by law, too.
But God commands Hosea to love her. And not just go and get her, and love her, but to even pay for her. That would have been extremely difficult emotionally, but we get a picture here of how hard it was financially, too. Hosea couldn't afford the rescue -- if he could, he probably would have paid all in cash. But he didn't have that much, so he paid half in cash, and half in barley.  In Exodus 21, we see the price of a female slave . . . Gomer sure had sunk to the bottom. But Hosea did whatever it took to get her back.

And that is what God wants to do with His wayward Israel. He shows Hosea this in the latter half of chapter two. And He wants to do the same for us. As Christians, when we read this, we can know in our hearts that it's for us:
“Therefore I am now going to allure her;    I will lead her into the wilderness
    and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards,    and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.There she will respond as in the days of her youth,    as in the day she came up out of Egypt. “In that day,” declares the Lord,    “you will call me ‘my husband’;
    you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips;    no longer will their names be invoked. In that day I will make a covenant for them    with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky    and the creatures that move along the ground.
Bow and sword and battle    I will abolish from the land,    so that all may lie down in safety. 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. “In that day I will respond,”    declares the Lord“I will respond to the skies,    and they will respond to the earth; and the earth will respond to the grain,    the new wine and the olive oil,
    and they will respond to Jezreel. I will plant her for myself in the land;    I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’;    and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”  (Hosea 2:14-23)
We can know, that we know for sure that this is for us, too. Look at I Peter 2:10....
Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (I Peter 2:10)
And be sure to read this in Romans 9, also:
What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea:“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;    and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”
26 and,“In the very place where it was said to them,    ‘You are not my people,’    there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’”(Romans 9:23-26)
Precious promises! We'll continue our study of Gomer tomorrow!

1 comment:

Belinda said...

It amazes me how God continues to love His children, regardless of their actions. He may get a little miffed at us, He may let us reap what we have sown, and He may leave us to our own sins for a time, but He is ALWAYS FAITHFUL. He forgives time and time again.

It's overwhelming when you really consider it.