This post is part of a reflective Lenten series, originally published as Facebook posts on my personal account.
Lenten practice, day #23.
Reference: Hosea 1:1-9
Hosea is such an interesting book—and one that many people (myself included) just brush past. He’s a minor prophet, buried in many other prophets…it just seems boring by the time you get there. But the CONTENT. Ugh, the content is so difficult, so challenging, but so BEAUTIFUL. It relates exactly to the running theological anthropology theme I’ve been keeping this entire Lent. (Thanks to Randy for the idea!)
So the entire premise of Hosea is to illustrate God’s love for his people through Hosea’s relationship with his wife. (Again, marriage reflects God’s relationship with the People (in modern times called the Church). Seeing a pattern here? Believe me, it’s not a coincidence. As Mycroft Holmes points out, “The universe is rarely so lazy.”)
So chapter 1 starts with boring biographical information that really only matters if you’re a kings-of-the-ancient-middle-east buff. I’m not (yet) and if you are feel free to check it out for yourself. So let’s move on.
There are two ways to take the second half of verse 2: that Hosea prophesied as a result of his terrible marriage to a prostitute, or Hosea was asked to sacrifice himself and take a prostitute as his wife in order to gain the experiences he would need to “have God’s heart as his own” and truly put everything into this critical prophesy.
I prefer to look at it the second way because it’s more selfless, but it doesn’t make a difference either way: the reality is that Hosea had an awful marriage and his prophetic reflection on the significance of the dynamics of that broken relationship are God’s gift to his estranged people.
So everything in this chapter (and book, for that matter) is symbolic. The first time I realized what the book really meant, I was shocked that anyone would name their children things like “Not Pitied” or “Not My People,” even for the sake of making an important point. (Talk about low self-esteem.) (Also, “Not My People” sounds like some kind of nose-goes thing. God’s all like, “Nope!” *puts finger on His nose and looks over to Zeus* “Not My People!”)
I was much relieved to read the notes under the verse in my Bible tonight where it indicates that the names are also symbolic, sort of like pseudonyms. Much relieved.
Each child seems to symbolize a sort of stage in God’s relationship with Israel. The first child, named for the valley of a terribly bloody battle, indicates the terrible tearing of a relationship. The second child, whose name means “Not Pitied” is telling of the frustration that God felt at his unfaithful beloved, Israel. She is beyond simply discussing and talking, she needs to be chastised for her infidelity (her bowing to other gods), but the Bible notes that this is a medicinal punishment—he loves her far too much and too deeply than to just abandon her. It is not in God’s nature to abandon. Instead he wants to be the “chastisement of a jealous lover, longing to bring back the beloved to the fresh and pure joy of their first love…God would have to strip her of the rich ornaments bestowed on her by false lovers and thus bring her back to the true lover” (from the notes in my Bible). (I stole that cause it was too good to express on my own.)
Finally, the third child is named “Not My People”—the stage of absolute grief when he must do things so difficult for his lover and see her suffer, but must act completely separated from her to purge their relationship gain.
DO YOU SEE HOW AMAZING THIS IS. Look at His love!! He’s not leaving her—he’s putting in ALL THE WORK to STAY with her. Amazing.
What a fantastic model for our own relationships when they aren’t perfect.
(DISCLAIMER: If you’re in an abusive or unhealthy relationship, you DO NOT NEED TO STAY. Remember, God is perfect and we’re not. He can stay because he IS love. We are flawed. The message is the incredible nature of God’s love for us, not necessarily our love for each other. Yes, our relationshpis are to REFLECT God’s relationship with the Church, but they are not identical. God is a far more perfect lover than humans can ever be. Never stay in an abusive relationship on the grounds that you might be able to “fix it.” A relationship where one is being abused is not a reflection of authentic love anyway—love yourself and those who love you, and get out.)
Anyway, I’m exhausted and I can’t put much more into this. Hopefully I’ll be less drained tomorrow and we can venture a bit deeper. In the meantime, will you make up for my lack? What did you see?