Is there anything that God doesn't have the right to do? That's the question I asked yesterday concerning the Old Testament prophet, Hosea. God told Hosea to marry a whore and raise a family with her. There are interpreters who think that such a command by God would not fit into his character or purposes. I disagree.
John Calvin's theory is that the marriage was in a vision for Hosea to act out for the people, but not a real life command. His reason was that Hosea would be "contemptible" before the public "for how could he expect to be received on coming abroad before the public, after having brought on himself such a disgrace? If he had married a wife such as is here described, he ought to have concealed himself for life rather than to undertake the Prophetic office." (John Calvin, Commentary on Hosea)
In writing this, I think Calvin misses the point while dancing all around it. The disgrace and contempt of Hosea is the point! Why was Hosea expected to marry a whore? "Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord” (Hosea 1:2). Hosea was to be a contemptible prophet to put before the people of Israel the contempt with which God had been treated by his bride. Hosea was to suffer in love to show the amazing nature of Israel's husband. Calvin truly understood what was at stake for Hosea to actually carry out what seems to be a clear command in real life. But to explain away the command because of its nasty ramifications is to make the book of Hosea useless. The point of Hosea is that God doesn't run and hide in shame with his prostitute bride.
So we have Hosea and Gomer, husband and wife, living happily ever after. Almost. It appears that Gomer made a habit of running off with other men, and it is reasonable because of the phrasing to assume the second and third kids named by God were fathered by men other than Hosea. Then there was that other thing. Somehow, Gomer got herself into trouble by indenturing herself.
"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.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley" (Hosea 3:1-2).
Here's where things heat up for our hero. Gomer is gone. God is running everything right on schedule. Hosea has to get his wife back. So he bought her back. She didn't cost much, which might show how far down and out she was. "You want her? You can have her real cheap." Hosea and Gomer, husband and wife, living happily ever after again. That's where we leave off our hero and his wife.
There are at least two important lessons we can learn from Hosea without even hearing the words of judgment that God spoke through him. Just his biography tells us this much:
1. Life is about God. Paul Tripp says it well, "It's not our party." We want to live life like our adulterous whims are the priority. They're not. Hosea was to buy back Gomer because Israel turned to other gods and loved cakes of raisins. That's a peculiar thing to say. "Go buy back your whore wife because my whore wife loves raisin cakes." The point is that God made people for a relationship with himself. Rather than love God, we would rather keep him at a distance and use his gifts. God, as a husband, was dissed for some food. We should be longing for the second that we can be face to face with our God in Heaven. But instead, we try to provide for ourselves little comforts and pleasures on earth. And we'll commit idolatry (spiritual adultery) to get it. Let me give one example to show how this works. Who gives man the ability to create wealth? Is it not God? Of course it is. The ability to make money is one of God's good gifts to us. Now, most of us own a television set. That is bought with God's money. Rather than live our lives the way he wants, we use his money to buy a tv to replace him with. See how that works?
2. For all those who want to continue to complain that God would never want us to do anything difficult in our marriage, like stay married, like forgive sins, like live to please our spouse, like love our wives with all we have, like submit to our husbands without bitterness, like trust God to work it all out; look at Hosea! The guy was told to marry a whore! How God-centered is God? Enough that when he has a lesson for his people, he has no problem inconveniencing Hosea with such a difficult command. Did Hosea say to God, "You know, I've wanted to marry the neighbor girl for years, and her dad is finally coming around, and I know you just want me to be happy, so I think I'll pass on the whole whore wife thing. Thanks for your grace." What did God want? "No Hosea, you can't make what you want out of your life, because you belong to me." God said; Hosea did. Go figure. In addition to the unbending will of God in terms of outward action, God also commanded Hosea to love Gomer. Not just buy her back. Love her. Why? Because God loves his unfaithful bride. Notice the command to feel. "Can't I just go bring her back and give her a wing of the house to live in? There's just no more feelings there God, and I'm sure you understand, knowing my heart." What did God want? "No Hosea, you can't just live with her, you have to feel good about her - in all of her glory." God said; Hosea did. Go figure. I guess that's why he was a prophet, and I guess that's why he'll get a prophet's reward.