This post is part of a reflective Lenten series, originally published as Facebook posts on my personal account.
Lenten practice, day #24.
Reference: Hosea 2:4-25
This chapter is a bit longer, but I’ll only unpack select parts of it.
The entire chapter is Hosea (symbolic of God) venting his frustration about the infidelity of his wife Gomer (symbolic of the Bride, Israel–aka His People).
What is most striking about this chapter is the very HUMAN reaction of Hosea, even if he is symbolizing God. Just as an unfaithful individual puts his or her spouse through immense pain, so does God feel immense pain when we reject him. The same pain, in fact, only far, far greater (cause he’s God and, like Texas, everything is bigger with God).
(DISCLAIMER: God is not Texas, nor is Texas God–despite how much they might like to argue.)
Hosea is SO upset. He encourages Gomer’s children to rebel against her, he wants to punish her for her adultery and call her out on it. He wants to strip her naked (which was the traditional punishment for adultery at the time) and “lay bare her shame.” He wants to take all the jewels and gifts she has received from other lovers. How completely human these reactions are! OF COURSE he wants justice. OF COURSE he wants to drive home to her the severity of her actions. OF COURSE he’s so, so hurt and has an impulse to want her to feel a similar pain.
But his motivation is not evil. He desires all of this out of immense pain–but he desires to rebuke her in a way that will wake her up to the reality of her vows and the blessing and beauty she is abandoning in her infidelity.
THAT is what is so significant. He is reacting out of the pain of a betrayed husband who still loves his Bride deeply. Remember, to love is to will the good of the other. He doesn’t wish for his bride to suffer forever. He doesn’t even wish to leave her. Instead, knowing her so well and knowing that he can best protect, provide and love her, he desires to give her what is REALLY best for her–even if that means a serious whooping.
He corrects her–even punishes her–with the fury and love of a wonderful husband (those are several words you probably didn’t expect to see in the same sentence). AND THAT is the beauty of God’s love. He wills what’s best for us, even when we suck. And he isn’t afraid to be stern and give us what we really need, even if it isn’t pleasant.
Suddenly WAY more of the Old Testament makes sense. God’s seemingly back-and-forth attitude towards the Israelites is put in its proper context: their back-and-forth attitude towards him. He is reacting to Israel’s infidelity, bringing her back. She leaves again, he brings her back again. Tirelessly. They had a skewed perspective the whole time: THEY were the cause, and God’s interactions with them were the effects. This is what the prophets have been trying to drive home for YEARS.
Later in the chapter, we see clearly the tender moment of reconciliation with his bride. We see her realization that she has been ridiculous, unfaithful, and unloving. We see her desire (for somewhat selfish motives) to return, and from there God allures her.
How like us that is! Do we not often return to God for selfish reasons after enstranging ourselves from him (i.e. to feel better, cause we need something, etc.)? And while that’s not a perfect motivation, God works with it an brings us to a place where we belong and where we DO have proper motivation. And from there, as Hosea does Gomer, how he showers us in love!!
He even tells his children, Jezreel (place of bad loss), Lo-ruhama (not pitied), and Lo-ammi (not my people), “YOU ARE MY PEOPLE!”