Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that the entire world loves a lover. And if he was right that all the world loves a lover, then the best loved book in the entire Bible should be the prophecy of the prophet Hosea. In some ways the story of Hosea differs little from millions of other stories that take place every year in London or New York or Boston or Chicago or Los Angeles or Singapore or Sydney. It's the story of a broken vow, a broken home, a broken heart, a broken life. But in other ways this story is so utterly unique that it ranks as one of the most amazing in all of literature. Now we've ignored this story of Hosea. We've clipped it from our Sunday school lessons and shunned it in our pulpits, but God has chosen the sad sorted story of this broken-hearted prophet to reveal his love and to demonstrate his grace.
The love story begins
The setting for the story of Hosea takes place in the city of Samaria, the capital city of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Hosea, a young preacher, is led by God to meet and woo and win a young woman by the name of Gomer. Gomer was part of a soft, easy going life of her time, but Hosea brought much to this marriage. He brought the unsquandered treasure of a young man's purity, for Hosea had never sacrificed upon some wayside altar. And as a result he came to this supreme moment of his life with much to give. I imagine that Gomer must have been swept off her feet by this young man of genius, who had the heart of a hero and the passion of a poet and the zeal of a saint.
Now a preacher's life, like any man's, I guess, is blessed or ruined by the woman that he marries. And so I imagine that when Hosea was told by God to meet and marry Gomer he must have thought she was as pure as the lily of the valley in his favorite love poem, The Song of Solomon. But as the days passed and he grew to know her better, he realized that petals of her purity had already been taken and trampled under the passions of vile and impure men. Yet it was a command from God in verse one of the prophecy that told Hosea to marry Gomer. And so I imagine that the prophet thought, Well, her past wasn't very good, but since God has brought us together, our future will be filled with happiness and delight. But he was wrong.
Perhaps Hosea did not have the time for his pleasure-loving young wife that he should have had, for Hosea was attempting to save a nation. Hosea the prophet realized that the nation of Israel would fall victim to the war machine of Assyria unless it repented of its sin. And so he spent his days and nights calling the people back to God in an all-out effort to avert disaster. But Gomer did not share the heart of her righteous, religious husband. She thought things stupid that he thought serious, and often she pouted that Hosea cared much more for his preaching than he did for her. And so bit by bit Gomer drifted back to the old wild life from which she had come, and day after day Hosea returned home wondering where his wife was. Night after night he lay awake long after it was good for him … waiting for his wife to return. And I'm confident that the prophet must have prayed. I'm confident he must have taken his domestic burden to the Lord.
Haddon Robinson is Harold John Ockenga Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
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