22–28 September 2019.
The story of Hosea’s broken marriage with his cheating wife Gomer is a metaphor for God’s marriage relationship with his own unfaithful people. And it’s here in chapter 7 that we hear the husband’s sadness and confusion at the way this unfaithful wife has behaved.
God is a loving husband, the most perfect husband there possibly could be. God cares for his bride, his people. God loves them and provides everything for them. And yet the people refuse to be faithful to God. They abandon him.
When our human partners cheat on us, in our hurt we immediately look for ways to take revenge. But that’s not the way God acts. In chapter 7, verse after verse describes all the ways that the Israelites have failed; in verse after verse we read of their lies, their sins, their greed and wickedness, their evil, uncaring, and arrogant behaviour. And yet despite all this horrific behaviour, God still doesn’t plan any revenge against these unfaithful people. That’s because in God’s eyes, being away from him and his loving goodness is already its own punishment.
Verses 8–16 describe all the horrible ways that the Israelites are suffering and destroying their own lives, simply because they have decided to disconnect themselves from the source of life’s love and goodness. The Israelites have a loving husband at home who would care for them and provide for them, who is even still calling for them to come back home. And yet they themselves in their foolishness prefer to suffer rather than be together with the husband who loves them. We wonder how people can be so foolish.
In the New Testament, Christ raises this same point using a very similar story. But instead of a story about a loving husband and his foolish wife, in Luke 15:11–32 Jesus tells a story about a loving father and his foolish son. In the parable of the prodigal son, the loving father also refuses to punish his son, because being away from the father’s love, provision, and care is already punishment enough. As he is living in filth, hunger, and misery, the prodigal son finally realizes this, comes to his senses, and goes back home to a better life with his loving father. And that’s the invitation that God holds out to us, too, in all of our unfaithful wandering.
Like Hosea’s wife, like the Israelites, and like the prodigal son, too often we also give ourselves problems and headaches we could so easily avoid simply because we refuse to stay with God. We turn away from the God who loves us and we choose instead a life of loneliness and suffering. These problems aren’t God’s punishment.
But while we are wandering away into that life of pain, God never stops loving us. Instead he lovingly waits for us to come to our senses and finally come back home to him.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis