Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hosea: The Whore's Husband Cont.

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.


Nan said...

Wonderful finish to a great post...um unless there's more.
It just really says it like it is. But you know what? Through these Scriptures, we can really see how it would please God to stay married to a type of spouse that friends and family would say to get out. When staying with a spouse like Gomer for the sake of the Lord and the reward, but also very importantly, because selfless love is on display, these are the Scriptural supports necessary in order to maintain hope and peace in the midst of messy marriages even today!

Antonio Romano said...

I struggled with how to articulate this so, I guess I'll just give it a shot. I don't want to pontificate. I hate that. So, I hope my words here support yours rather than attempt to override or add to them ungraciously. I am not seeking to speak here as a teacher but as a learner. One who I hope sounds broken.

Your posts and the truths of Hosea have really gotten to me. First of all, you are absolutely right when you speak of God's right to do as He pleases. Praise Him that He exercises the right to actually "be" God at His own discretion and not ours.

Secondly, this story, as harsh as it is on the surface, is profoundly beautiful in its ultimacy. I know that Christ purchased His people once and for all so, I hope no one misinterprets my point here. But I cannot help but picture myself up for sale again and again. I head back to the city and all its vices and willingly prostitute myself out to feed the desires of my wicked flesh. And eventually, I find myself used up, worn out, no good, and damaged. I find no takers. And yet, Jesus comes to the auction. And He buys me back every single time.

Jesus is so much better than Hosea. There is no internal struggle. He isn't doing it begrudingly. He doesn't need coaxed. There is no lesson for Him to learn. No. Because for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross. He buys me back in joy. He does not fear for His own reputation. Because our God is in the heavens and He does whatever He pleases. How much tarnish does He put up with on my account? It was people like me that got Jesus the reputation of being a drunkard and tax collector. Scandalous Savior of Heaven. Time and again He has bent down in the dirt and pulled me up to stand again. "Neither do I condemn you, Tony. Go and sin no more." And then I go. And sin more. And He returns and shows me mercy.

Please, please, please do not hear me saying we can sin with impunity. Or, that God does not take our sin seriously. Or, that we are free to trample Jesus' blood under our feet. I am most emphatically NOT saying those things.

I am saying that God has never turned His back on me. That's all I'm saying. That's it. He has every right to and He does not. I fear Him. I know that I cannot repent if He does not grant me repentance. And I'm writing on this blog because, at this point in my life, He has granted it to me every single time. I am writing to say, "How can that be? Why?"

I do not want to return to the auction block today. But I'm a hopelessly sinful man. And I may feel differently if temptation gets strong enough. I don't have a great track record.

But He does. So, I pray for future grace. I pray for mercy. I pray for Jesus to save me from myself. Because I have to see Him. I have to look into the eyes that have looked down on me for 33 years, so far. I am Gomer. And the Better Hosea is my husband. I hope.

Darby Livingston said...


That's right, Hosea was written for us, and Hosea carried out God's will for our benefit so that we will not be idolaters like Israel was.


Couldn't have said it better, especially that last paragraph. That is exactly what we should get when we read Hosea. Keep the faith.

mike fox said...

nice post on hosea!

you've shown how the prophets odd call teaches us some great lessons and some real theology.

a few have pointed out another consequence of hosea's experience - it allowed him to feel what God feels. much like jeremiah, who was betrayed by his own people and felt both anger and love for them at the same time, hosea got a taste of how it feels to be the suffering God.

anyway, i'm caffeinated so i'll stop typing, but nice post, keep it up.

Darby Livingston said...


That's a good point. Thanks for stopping by.

Amanda said...

Just checking to see if your comment widget works! :0