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What happens when incomprehensible sin meets inexhaustible love? You get the life of Gomer. Her story is found in the book of Hosea. Though the Bible does not give us very many details about her life, it gives us enough. Gomer is a woman whose story tells us far more about God than it does about her. To understand this story we have to take a look at the background. This story takes place in Israel. The book of Hosea was written to warn the northern kingdom of Israel that judgment was coming. This judgment was coming because of their insatiable appetite for sin and the fact that they had broken their covenant with the faithful God who had brought them out of slavery in Egypt. Though God had delivered them and sustained them in the wilderness, though He had shown his love and kindness to them, they had come into the land of Canaan and embraced the spiritual adultery of the Canaanites.

To understand the sin they had given themselves to, we need to look at the god the people of Canaan served. They worshipped Baal. If you’ve read 1 Kings, you are probably familiar with the showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. The Baal being worshipped in the book of Hosea is one and the same. Baal was thought to be a god of weather and fertility. He was believed to be responsible for bringing rain. You can see why an agricultural society would be poised to meet whatever demands this god made of them. Their livelihood depended on the rain. At this time in Israel, there was cultic, religious prostitution involved in the worship of Baal. Men would go to the temple of Baal and engage in sexual acts with the prostitutes there in hopes that what they experienced at the temple would follow them home and bless their fields with fertility and life. This was rampant in their culture. Their religious practices were nothing but grotesque orgies that drew them deeper and deeper into sexual bondage and promiscuity.

This is the setting for the book of Hosea. The name Hosea means “savior.”

At the start of the book, God speaks to Hosea. He tells him to go and marry a prostitute and have children with her because the land has committed prostitution by forsaking the Lord. This was a shocking mandate for Hosea, yet he obeys. He goes and marries a woman named Gomer. Her name means “corruption/depravity.” Many scholars believe that she had been employed as a temple prostitute.

We don’t know what her life was like before this point. We don’t know how she ended up in this profession. All we know is that one day a very godly man showed up in her life, and instead of tossing a few coins in a box and using her, he asks her to marry him. He asks her to let him love her, not for a moment, but for the rest of her life. Gomer says yes. I wonder if she was able to truly believe that this man would be different. Hosea brings her home and gives her everything that a husband can give his wife. He gives her a place to belong. He gives her a safe place to heal from the past. He gives her his good name. He gives her the refuge of himself. He gives her his heart. They have three children. Each of these children’s names convey a message to the people of Israel. This would be such a great place for this story to end. I would love to say, “and they lived happily ever after.” But it does not end here. In fact, it is at this point in the story that we find out that Gomer is no longer home with her husband. She has returned to prostitution.

gomer

The book unfolds on two levels. One is the literal story of Hosea and his wife. The other is the spiritual allegory of God and Israel who has forsaken Him. Both layers are telling the same story. This is who Gomer is. This is who the people of God are. Unfaithful. They have experienced an overwhelming and faithful love. They have received all of the blessing of being loved by a husband, and they’ve taken those very gifts and used them in pursuit of adultery and idolatry. God describes punishment that will fall on Israel because of their sin. They will endure great hardship in the days ahead because they have forsaken their God, yet even in punishment, there is hope for a future. God does not punish his children in order to destroy them. He punishes them to refine them, to purify and to heal. At one point, God describes how they have forsaken Him.  They have turned their backs on Him. He says “They have gone after their lovers and forgotten Me, therefore…” You would expect this to end with, “Therefore I will forget you. I will turn my back on you…” But it doesn’t. It says “I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there… I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine.” How must these words have sounded to Hosea? Hosea, whose heart was broken, whose wife had thrown his love back in his face was hearing his own pain mirrored in the heart of God. He was experiencing a covenant marriage just like the one God was in with His people. God had made his heart vulnerable to pain because He had set his love on a people who would reject it. He had bound His heart to a people who would break it. Yet, He would not stop pursuing them. He would not stop loving them. In chapter 11 God cries out, “Oh, how can I give you up, Israel?” The answer is that He can’t. And now it was Hosea’s turn. God addresses his faithful servant. He tells Hosea to go again and love his wife who has given herself to adultery and idolatry. Why? Because God wanted his people to know, without a doubt that though they had abandoned their God, he still loved them. Hosea rises up and finds Gomer. He pays a very high price to buy her back out of the slavery into which she has sold herself. Can you picture it? Gomer, in a dirty room in a pagan temple waiting to service yet another man with darkness in his eyes. Gomer, trying not to think about what she walked away from. Trying to understand why she would throw away the only good she had ever known. Hating herself for her choices. Hating the sin inside her that caused her to sabotage every hint of beauty in her life. The average life expectancy for a women in active prostitution is 7 years. Whether she knew it or not, Gomer was dying. She needed a savior.

A man entered her room. She looked up. Hosea.

gomer hands

What we know of Gomer’s story is finished by the 3rd chapter of Hosea. We know that she went home with her husband. We don’t have many details beyond that. The rest of the book deals with God’s relationship with His people.

As I look at the story of Gomer, what strikes me is that the most significant thing about her life was the fact that she was relentlessly loved. Countless women in her day lived their lives in prostitution. Countless people had given themselves over to sin and the worship of idols. She was no different than them, yet her story is recorded for the rest of time. Why? Because of Hosea. The most beautiful thing about her life was the one who loved her.

People of God, this is us. We have been loved, so richly, so deeply, and though we have sinned against that love, though we have broken faith with our Holy God time and time again, He still comes for us. He finds us in our shame. At great cost to Him, he buys us back. He brings us home. He calls us his own. If grace is “unmerited favor,” I can’t think of a better word for our condition. The very ground we stand on, the very air we breathe is grace. Unmerited favor. We do not deserve His love. We cannot repay Him. We should be cut off from Him and the joy of His presence, yet he does not cut us off. He does not push us away. It says he has brought us near… close, by the blood of Christ. Psalm 130:3 says “Lord, if you marked our transgressions, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, therefore you are feared.”

We are Gomer. Every last one of us. We are that unworthy bride who sins against love itself again and again, and deserves to be cast off. But God…God is Hosea, Savior. And He comes for us again and again. Not because we are good or beautiful, but because He is. And he has set his love on us, and He will never let us go. Rest in that love today. Treasure that love. Worship your Savior. He is everything.

 

 

 

 

*My blogs are written with the assumption that they are being read primarily by Christians. If you want to know more about what it means to be a Christian or about the gospel of Jesus Christ, click the link here:The Gospel

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