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Perfect Love for Imperfect People (#1): Bible Cosplay

. 5 min read

2013/10/13

Message, Hosea 1.1-9, 2.1-3, 3.1-5, with John 8.2-11 and
Psalm 50

How did you become a prophet?

The word of the LORD came to me, and I listened.  And, then I spoke.

Why did you marry a prostitute?

Yes, I married a sex worker, and she has a name.  Her name is Gomer.  And I love her.  I didn’t expect to.  I married her because God told me to, and I
never had a clearer word from God than that word.

            As I look
back, I see that God wanted me to feel and experience, through the pain and
disgrace of Gomer’s unfaithfulness, the same kind of thing that God is
experiencing through the unfaithfulness of God’s people.

Hosea 8:11 Though [Israel] built
many altars for sin offerings, these have become altars for sinning. (NIV)

Hosea 4:1 There is no
faithfulness or loyalty, and no knowledge of God in the land.

We have a God who loves us, and our God is a jealous God.  We say we are God’s people, but we worship
Baal, calling him “master”.  It’s
idolatry, and it’s adultery, especially when we lie with sex workers at the
altar to get close to Baal and to his goddess consort.  In the wilderness with Moses, we made a golden
calf idol, and we have repeated that – and gone much further – angering our
jealous God.

I know jealousy.  I
married Gomer, but – even as I grew to love her – her past haunted us
both.  She had confused love and power,
wanting to dominate or be dominated.  She
confused love and gifts, and wanted to give herself to anyone who made her feel
special in that moment.  She thought she
was in control, but I watched her self-destruct and could do nothing to stop
it.

I started to feel that I wasn’t the only man in her
life.  She stayed out late.  She didn’t look me in the eye.  She stopped thanking me for the small things –
flowers or cooking dinner – and began to despise me for even smaller
things. 

Hosea 13:6  When I fed them, they were satisfied; they
were satisfied, and their heart was proud; therefore they forgot me.

Our first child was a son, whom God told me to name Jezreel,
the site of Jehu’s massacres that gave him control of the kingdom 100 years
ago.  The name was a reminder of the
guilt of our royal house, a guilt that was to be visited in a series of royal
assassinations, and much more.  The name
itself means “scatter”, a word for exile. 
I might as well have named the boy “Guilty”.  And that’s the way Gomer behaved.

            She was
pregnant as soon as Jezreel was weaned. 
And this time, I knew for sure that I was not the father.  Our second child, a daughter, was named
Lo-Ruhamah, “No Pity”.  Then, a third
child, another son, Lo-Ammi, “Not My People”. 
Over and over in the covenant, the LORD declares to Israel: “I will
be your God and you will be my people.” 
But my son is named “Not My People”. 
My heart was breaking.  Sometimes
I was so angry – “no pity” – but I could not stop loving Gomer or the kids.

Then, the day came that ripped my heart out.  I came home and found a note from Gomer.  She left and was never coming back.  And, the kids were at my parents’ home.  She didn’t want anything to do with them or
with me either.  She was guilty, she had
no pity, she refused to claim us as her people.

            For a long
time, I didn’t hear from her or even know where she was.  I spent many sleepless nights wondering if
there was anything I could have done differently.  The kids … the kids began to blame themselves
for being abandoned by their mother. 
They saw Gomer in the marketplace with another man, a master, a “Baal”.  They wondered what to do the next time they
saw her:

Hosea 2:2  Plead with your mother, plead– for she is not
my wife, and I am not her husband– that she remove the adulterous and
unfaithful look from her face. (NRSV/NIV edited)

I stopped calling Gomer my wife, but I could never bring
myself to file for divorce.  No matter
how much she had forgotten my love, no matter how much she had rejected her own
children, there was still a chance, still a chance if she would repent.

The same thing was true for Israel.  The LORD is jealous, yes – jealous because
the LORD is loving.  After I named our
second son “Not My People”, a sign of the broken covenant, the LORD reminded me
of the covenant with Abraham:

Hosea 1:10  Yet the number of the people of Israel shall
be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in
the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it
shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”

We are, to put it nicely, “imperfect” people.  Yet, God loves us perfectly.  God does not give up on us.  God keeps the light on, holds the door open,
and actually steps into our worst mess to redeem us.  That’s my story.

I hadn’t heard from Gomer or seen her in quite a while.  The rumors were that her lovers had turned on
her in violence, that they were more interested in younger girls, that any
control she thought she had was completely broken.  She had pursued her desire, and found her
self parched, unsatisfied. 

            Then, I
heard that she was up for sale in the marketplace, a slave with no power over
her own destiny and no way to save herself. 
The LORD told me to love her.  So
I bought her, not as a slave but to be my wife and lover once again.  We call that, in Hebrew, to redeem a
slave.  It costs me 15 shekels of silver,
some barley and wine.

            I told her
that she had to learn purity by chastity. 
I told her that we needed time and space to rediscover trust before I
could give myself to her.  I told her that
we would start over again, that I would court her, entice her, woo her.  When the time came, we would respond to one
another as if we were loving each other for the first time.

            And, I told
her that our children had new names. 
Jezreel, for scatter, as a scattered family and a scattered people of
God, now is Jezreel, for sowing seed, to plant and not to uproot.  Lo-Ruhamah is now Ruhamah – the loved
one.  Lo-Ammi is now Ammi – my people, my
son.

This is God’s story:

Behold, I am going to entice her.

I will lead her through the wilderness

and speak intimately to her.

I shall betroth you to me forever.

I shall betroth you to me

            with
righteousness and with justice,

            and with
mercy and with pity.

I shall betroth you to me in faithfulness.

Then you shall know [the LORD].

Then I shall sow her [Jezreel] to me in the land

            and I will
have pity on Lo-Ruhama

            and I will
say to Lo-Ammi, “You are my people,”

            and he will
say, “My God.”

(Hosea 2.16, 21, 22, 25, translation by Francis I. Andersen
and David Noel Freedman, Hosea, The Anchor Bible, vol 24.)