My good brother from church wrote a wonderful Facebook post that I thought needed more syndication. It’s from one of the most brutal and at the same time encouragingly wonderful books from the scriptures, Hosea. Being a man who has longed for marriage and a family for most all of my life, the book touches me deeply. To contemplate what Hosea is called to go through time and again in the relationship with his divinely appointed spouse is excruciatingly painful to read. Not to mention God comparing it to his own relationship with his people. However because of that comparison, it also contains some of the most often cited lines to defend the New Covenant’s scope towards salvation. For once we were not a people, and by God’s sovereign grace we are now called his people. I now share, unedited, my brother in Christ Cameron Hoehne’s wonderful insight from the book of Hosea.
“My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore.”
Hosea is one of my favorite Bible books. The whole story is full of heartbreak, betrayal, and teeth-clenched obedience. Hosea’s life itself served as a picture of our relationship with God, not only for himself and his timeline, but for millennia to come. The book is all about relationships, especially Israel’s with God.
Hosea married Gomer. Time and time again, this whore had left her husband for nights of debauchery and weeks of unbridled revelry, all for her own pleasure. I imagine a heartbroken prophet, learning to love a woman who doesn’t love him, knocking on the man’s door in the middle of the night, to retrieve his adulteress and carry her back to their home.
There must have been many a night where Hosea looked up at the stars – a vast emptiness dotted with mystery – and wondered why God would command his heart to break over and over, and over again. On the days when his wife was committed, perhaps they got along well, recalling their life stories around a night fire, or maybe she would ask Hosea what God’s voice sounds like. Maybe Hosea could muster up some bits of Hebrew to describe the experience, or maybe at the thought of it he fell silent.
Marriage is not about feelings. Relationships aren’t built on the shifting sands of heartfelt emotions, nor are they grown through idle conversation.
A few points can be drawn from Hosea’s story: for one, obedience to God trumps adultery. This is why the first response to finding your lover loving someone else shouldn’t be divorce. Imagine the pain Hosea felt knowing that he would never have a good wife to look after his home. But after the initial shockwave from his dreams tumbling down, he received the divine strength offered and pressed on toward the deepest pain a human can experience.
Secondly, God is sovereign. He commands Hosea to take a wife of whoredom, but why? Because God can see into the future, He knows the past intimately, and feels the sting of betrayal amplified beyond our comprehension. And He works tirelessly for His story to unfold, and chooses us before time to accomplish meaningful things to further His redemptive plan. While the pain is excruciating, Hosea moves onward. But, assuredly, not from the strength of his will. No man can obey without God’s work in His heart. God showed through Hosea the part we have played, and the inherited role we defer to when we stray from God.
And yet, God carries us home.
Imagine the God of the universe – who made the heavens and the earth, who spoke you into existence, who is all-powerful and omnipresent, the One above all others – looking down to see a man bowing to a piece of a wood, inquiring of this makeshift divining rod his future, that it may be well.
These idols we create for ourselves, that we bow down to in full view of God, have turned our hearts away from the One who created all things, and we have played the whore. We seek out pleasures to worship rather than the One who made us to delight in Him.
Hosea’s heartbreak was only a glimpse of the pain God endures daily, from us bowing down to ourselves and the things we have made for ourselves. This alone should rend our hearts in two, causing us to repent and seek Him only.
Inquire of Yahweh instead, for Him to reveal the idols in your life, as I ask Him to do for me. Whether it is a longed-after relationship, a coveted career, knowledge itself, or a pile of currency. None of these things amount to God, the Originator, the Alpha and Omega.
May He lead us steadily through trials, to meet Him in glory, purified from dross, cleansed in His blood, sinless and blameless.
I long for this day.
Author – Cameron Hoehne