Painful Surprises Chapter 3 opens with depressing news: “The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress’” (3:1). Gomer had returned to her bad ways. Worse, because of her shameful life, she became another man’s slave and couldn’t return even if she wanted to. Why do some find it so difficult to be free from some sin, bad habit or wrong way of thinking? Twice Hosea uses an expression which is unique to his book – “spirit of prostitution.” Could this extra bondage to a particular sin be caused by the influence of demons? In the first reference, Hosea is preaching against idolatry and then adds that “a spirit of prostitution leads them astray” (4:12). Something external had a strong influence over them. From other Scriptures we know that there is a direct connection between idols and demons (Dt. 32:16-17; 1 Cor. 10:20; Rev. 9:20). The second time Hosea uses the expression, he is concerned with Israel’s inability to return to their God. He sees two causes: “their doings” – the habit of bad behavior, and the fact that a spirit of fornication “is in the midst of them, and they do not acknowledge the Lord” (5:4). We know that demons can affect a thought pattern, blinding it to reality, making it very difficult to think and act correctly (1 Tim. 4:1).
Some, therefore, see in the expression “spirit of prostitution” evidence that demons specialize in creating bondage to sexual sin. The term “spirit” could also be translated “breath” or “wind,” and could refer to a general attitude, strong inclination or deep-seated desire. The uncertainty of the precise meaning of Hosea’s expression should not distract us from the fact that repeated sin enslaves. It is clear that in some forms of sin, the presence of demons can lead to further bondage. In counseling, prayerful, sound biblical advice will usually be sufficient to break sinful thought patterns, encourage repentance and lead to freedom. Yet, some people find themselves so addicted to their sin, bad habit or wrong way of thinking that they require deeper involvement by fellow believers to free them. This applies as much to adultery and covetousness as to legalism, pride and unwillingness to forgive.
At some point in her downward path, Gomer lost her freedom. Hosea, moved by love to his Lord and his wife, set out to find and redeem her: “So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley” (3:2). He paid about 170 grams of silver and probably about 500 liters of barley. The price of a slave used to be 30 shekels of silver (Ex. 21:32). Was Gomer so worn out that she was worth less than a normal slave? The fact that he paid only half the price and added some barley could also hint at Hosea’s limited financial resources. Emotionally and financially redeeming his wife proved expensive! Was she worth it? The Lord asked Hosea to do more: “Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites” (3:1). In New Testament terms: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). We are unable to love like this. When the Lord asks us to do something, He will provide the strength, but we must want to obey and must ask for help.
If you are like me, you are now feeling sorry for Hosea. Is the Lord asking too much? How many times should Hosea forgive and pursue such a difficult wife? The apostle Peter posed the same question to Jesus: “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” The Lord told him a parable about a king who forgave one of his servants. The forgiven servant chose not to forgive a fellow servant (Mt. 18:21-30).
The king punished the servant who chose not to forgive. Then the Lord Jesus concluded: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Mt.18:30-35). Offended marriage partner, have you ever offended the Lord? Have you considered the magnitude and gravity of your own sin? Has the Lord, by grace, forgiven all of it? It is the Lord who is responsible for justice and forgiveness, not us. The Christian life is not about fairness, but about showing grace – expensive grace.
Hosea once more took the initiative. He again led her into the desert and spoke tenderly to her heart. “I told her, ‘You are to live with me for many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you’” (3:3). A new process of restoration began. Hosea again expressed his love for his wife. What a tragedy that more homes do not have someone willing to work to keep the family together. Will you try again? True love persists!
Why Allow Such Pain?
Jesus’ life was not free from pain, sacrifice and burdensome limitations. Why then do we expect to be free from them? How do you think Jesus would deal with your complicated partner? Would He ask less than what He asked of Hosea? Are you still willing to follow Jesus all the way? Perhaps you have already noticed that when you follow Jesus, it is possible to experience joy, peace and freedom while still living in undesirable circumstances.
To Develop Character: From the life of Hosea, it is clear that obedience isn’t always logical; it’s not always understood by family and friends; and it’s not always the easiest option. Jesus was not exaggerating when He said: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Yet there is nothing good about pain itself. The Lord did not look for pain, neither did He enjoy it. The wonder is that our heavenly Father uses the pain and frustration we experience to mould our characters and improve us for service. Hosea and Gomer needed each other. While they had happy times together, God worked on them through those more difficult periods. They learned to obey even when they didn’t feel like it. They grew in patience, learned to forgive, matured, and were forced to show grace.
To Prepare For Service: The Lord deeply desired to restore wayward Israel. Who better than Hosea could feel how He felt about His people? Knowing Hosea’s situation, we can hear the passion in his voice as he pleaded with Israel on the Lord’s behalf: “ ‘I am the Lord your God … You shall acknowledge no God but Me. I cared for you … When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot Me’… Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: ‘Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously’ ” (13:4-6, 14:1-2). The Lord needed such a prophet. Through those painful events, God worked His plans in the life of Hosea and Gomer. Your heavenly Father also desires to work His plans in your marriage. He is not finished!
True Love Persists
It is difficult to read and reflect on the family life of Hosea and Gomer without feeling emotional. Infidelity makes me angry. Forgiveness and reconciliation make me happy. However, what touched me most as I reflected on Hosea’s drama of persistent love was that this is an imperfect picture of what the Lord is willing to do for us. We know that Christ came to seek the lost, that He stooped down to our unworthy condition to clean us and adopt us into the family of God, that He paid a high price to redeem us – but that is not all. The love of our Lord Jesus, as our supreme Hosea, will seek and pursue us to the very, very end.
If some day our hearts grow cold and become unfaithful, even if we reach such a low condition as that of Gomer, we have a Divine Lover who will take the initiative and will pursue us, no matter what. He will never give up on us! This knowledge should warm our hearts and make us feel very secure. He loves us with “everlasting love” and will draw us with “loving-kindness” (Jer. 31:3).
Our God is the same God who followed Jonah and gave him another chance, who persisted with David even after he committed adultery and murder, and who restored embarrassed Peter to full apostolic ministry. Have you fallen? Have you messed up? Have you been unfaithful? Are you the guilty party in your marriage? As you read this, the Lord is calling you again. This undeserved persistence is the hallmark of true Divine Love. Let Him love you again!
The Lord had a special purpose for Hosea and Gomer’s complex marriage, and He has a special purpose for your marriage. Gomer was unstable, ungrateful and repeatedly unfaithful, yet Hosea took the initiative to search for her, forgive her, speak to her heart and initiate a process of restoration. Will you do the same for your marriage? True love doesn’t give up!
By Philip Nunn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org