This week the Narrative Lectionary points us to Hosea 11:1-9 and Mark 10:13-14. There are not many more heart-breaking stories in the Bible than the tragic one-sided love of Hosea and Gomer. It is easier to be focused on the infidelity of the prostitute named Gomer. I wonder, though, if the real focus is on the husband of the lust-driven unfaithful woman.
Gomer’s Husband-to-be was instructed by Divine revelation to marry a prostitute. Glamorized by Hollywood productions such as Pretty Woman, we might romanticize this relationship and be hopeful for a happy ending. But such is not the case.
Gomer’s Husband fathered three children in this relationship. Each one had a bitter name. The firstborn son had a name that spoke of punishment and vengeance. The middle child was a daughter who bore the pain of being named for a lack of love. The third child was a son, and his name was an admission of rejection and sorrow.
Gomer’s Husband experienced the shame of being married to a woman who spent her days with other lovers. Not lovers in love. No, it’s not the worn-out tale of just growing apart and having to exit one relationship to finally find the happiness that is deserved. There’s no saving grace to be found here. He watches as she gives herself to multiple men who use her and ditch her, cheaply degrading herself.
Gomer’s Husband mourns this loss. It’s not just the relationship, and it’s not just the motherless children he is raising. It is that the woman he chose has shamefully acted out the basest of her desires and everyone can see it. She can’t seem to see how pitiful the situation is. He still loves and desires for her to come home, but she keeps chasing the men who treat her like trash.
Gomer’s Husband sees her at the end of her rope. Imprisoned and worn out. His heart still aches for her and he pays her bail, brings her home, and washes her gently. Asks her to give it another chance and to leave behind the lust for all the other men and accept the Love he has for her after all.
In the immediate sense, Gomer is Israel. Gomer’s husband is Hosea, a prophet living a nightmare for a preaching assignment. But more, Gomer’s Husband is God. Unfaithful Israel is given multiplied chances to return but continues to live with the idols that draw away their hearts. The book of Hosea is the revelation of a broken-hearted but fully righteous God who never stops loving his wayward people.
If you were reading that and trying to put yourself in the shoes of Gomer’s husband, you should know that Gomer is us. It’s easy to scornfully judge Israel, but we also must look in the mirror. How many times has God called us out our mess to come back into His grace?
Our text is Hosea 11, but how do you talk about Hosea 11 without talking about chapters 1-10? Hosea 11 affirms the eternal love of our ‘husband’ who chose us in spite of our sin, loved us in spite of our lust, and receives us back in spite of our wandering.
In chapter 11 the analogy turns from husband to Father. God is the Father who loves his disobedient children. And it’s a long and sometimes ugly story.
When Israel was a child, I loved him…But the more I called to him, the farther he moved from me…Hosea 11:1,2 NLT
He is the Father who rescues, calls, teaches, cares for, and loves his child. But all he gets in return is rejection.
I myself taught Israel how to walk, leading him along by the hand. But he doesn’t know or even care that it was I who took care of him. I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love. I lifted the yoke from his neck, and I myself stooped to feed him. … For my people are determined to desert me. They call me the Most High, but they don’t truly honor me.Hosea 11:3, 4, 7 NLT
How Can I Give You Up?
Though the Father tried ‘tough love’ and allowed his son to experience the painful realities of the choices he was making, He never gave up. Instead, His compassion overflows. Any human husband / father would give up on this relationship and just walk away. But he says, “I am God and not a mere mortal … I will bring them home again, says the Lord.” (Hosea 11:9, 11).
The Narrative Lectionary leaves us to think about the offer that the Lord has placed before his people. Hosea 14 offers hope and healing, but our text leaves us to consider our own sin and unfaithfulness and the compassion and mercy that comes from our Father.
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.Mark 10:13-14, CSB
Jesus calls out to let the children come … don’t stop them … and that is our message in this text. No matter how deeply you have crawled into the pit of shame and godless living, this doesn’t have to be the end of your story.
There is a Husband who would take back a wife who gave herself to many lovers but is now willing to come home. There is a Father who has been in great pain because of the choices of his children, but when they come to Him, He desires to bring them home. There is a God who has been broken-hearted over your choices but He reaches beyond that hurt to the love that’s been there all along.
This is a sermon text that will likely take a lot of repentance to prepare and a lot of heart to preach. But I think it will also be a great reminder to the church about the kind of God we serve.
You’re invited to join the discussion and resources of the weekly Narrative Lectionary text in my Facebook group called Narrative Lectionarians.