Updated: Mar 17
What if you knew before you got married that your spouse would cheat on you? Would you back out? Would you reconsider? The betrayal of adultery is one of the deepest pains a person can feel. It rips at the fabric of our identity, tears the trust from our hearts and replaces it with bitter humiliation. It says, “I don’t love you. I don’t want you. You are not enough.” The pain is spiritual as much as physical, and all through Scripture God draws the parallel between adultery in marriage and the spiritual corruption of sin. So why did He command the prophet Hosea to marry a woman who would not be faithful? I can imagine their wedding day…
The sun was shining as Hosea walked the stony path to Gomer’s house, his groomsmen behind him. He felt strong and proud, giddy with anticipation as he drew near. Her father met him at the door and hugged him warmly. “She is ready, my son”. As he looked past his father-in-law, Hosea caught his breath. Gomer was dressed in blue and her ebony hair fell loosely around her shoulders. He waited for her to take his arm and they walked into the sunshine together. The entire village fell in behind them as they made their way back to Hosea’s family home. His father had prepared the feast and the wine was already flowing. Guests shouted and cheered, children ran ahead laughing and playing. Hosea breathed deep the sweet air of the afternoon and knew this day would be burned in his memory forever. His heart raced as he thought of the evening and the joy it would bring both of them. He wanted it to be a beautiful night, for he loved Gomer with all his heart, and he saw in her eyes the same for him. At this moment of complete joy, the words of the Lord faded and dimmed. Perhaps the Lord had been wrong. Perhaps Hosea had simply misunderstood.
As the years passed and their family grew, Hosea was tempted to disregard the things God had told him his wife would do. He didn’t want to believe she was capable of such behavior, and she appeared as happy as any wife and mother could be. Gomer did not question his choice of names for their children and seemed to accept that Hosea was a prophet of God. She never questioned or argued over the things God directed him to do, and she tended her family well. But in his heart Hosea knew that if the Lord said it would happen, it would. The Lord was never wrong, and Hosea understood that God was using the prophet’s life to illustrate the relationship between Himself and Israel. Yet, Hosea’s heart longed for God to be wrong.
After the birth of their third child, a son, Hosea began to notice subtle signs of discontent and a distance began to grow between he and Gomer. A dread he couldn’t control or avoid overshadowed his days. Gomer never said anything unkind or complained, but she pulled away from his embraces and would not tell him what was wrong. In fact, she talked less and less with each passing day, and her eyes followed every stranger passing by. She seemed to go through the motions of each day in a daze, and Hosea saw her eyes grow cold. In response Hosea loved her more, taking over her duties with the children and helping around the house. He told her how much he loved her, but mostly he prayed God change her heart and bring her joy again. He prayed that God would keep their family in tact and protect their children from the pain of losing their mother. With each prayer he heard the Lord say, “My grace is sufficient for you”.
As a prophet, Hosea grieved for the nation of Israel, especially the Northern tribes who turned from the Lord and embraced the pagan cultures around them. He knew that his own people were as unfaithful as God prophesied Gomer would be. For the nation worshipped Baal, sacrificing their children to Molech, and had forsaken the God who brought them into the promised land. Just as Israel had betrayed Jehovah, Gomer would betray Hosea.
So it was not a surprise the day the children came running to tell him Gomer was gone, but knowing it was going to happen did not prepare him for the moment it did. As he stood in their small home he felt the emptiness and wept. What could he have done to make her happy? What could he have done to make her want to stay? In his heart Hosea knew that he could not make her do anything. It was beyond his power to change her heart. Only God could do that, and Hosea fell on his knees and sought the comfort and love of the God he knew so well.
In the days that followed, Hosea searched and searched for Gomer, only to find she had made arrangements with a wealthy traveler to take her away. The entire village knew she was gone and the humiliation was like a heavy stone that pressed on his chest and made it hard to breath. What could he do? He had children to take care of and the Lord’s writing to do. Hosea’s heart was flooded with pain and in moments of weakness, when he thought of the things she was doing in that far away place, he was overcome with rage. He had loved her, cared for her, given her everything he had, and she traded him and their children for- what? Hosea didn’t even know what it was Gomer was searching for or seeking after. But one thing he knew with certainty. She was with other men. He knew his wife was no longer his alone, and the thought of her unfaithfulness was like a white hot iron plunged deep in his chest.
In those dark days it was only the comfort of the Lord that kept Hosea from going crazy. Whenever he thought he could not bear anymore, the Lord would sooth his mind with His prophesies. The Lord spoke to Hosea of His great love for His people Israel, and Hosea knew God understood his pain and that it had a purpose.
As Hosea turned to the Lord, God finally spoke to him about where Gomer was and directed him to go get her. The journey was long and Hosea was very tired when he finally arrived in the market place. The air was pungent with incense and perfume, and the crowd of men was thick. Hosea stood in the back trying to see the platform and the line of women being sold. He knew Gomer was there, but he could not see her. Then all at once she stepped forward and his heart beat faster. Her raven hair was plated in an elaborate twist on the top of her head, and her shoulders were bare. The robes she wore were bright and made of fine silk, but they were gathered tight around her waist, outlining her form, and showing her legs underneath. Her eyes were shining behind the long dark lashes and black paint on her eyelids, and her red lips smiled at the crowd of men. A lump stuck in Hosea’s throat and his voice was hoarse when he shouted his bid, six ounces of silver and 420 pounds of barley.
The crowd drew silent and the auctioneer peered out to see the man who had bid. Gomer also searched the crowd for the man who had paid such a generous amount. As Hosea came forward their eyes met and Gomer’s smile faded, and her beautiful eyes looked down in fear. All he had to do was announce that Gomer was his wayward wife and the crowd would help him stone her. He knew it, she knew it and for a moment, they both wondered if he would.
But Hosea was not there to condemn his wife, he was there to bring her home, to restore her and redeem her. So, he gave the silver to the auctioneer and motioned for the barley to be brought up. It was all he had, but he paid it willingly. Gomer was silent as they left the square, and as they entered the lodge where Hosea was staying. He brought out her favorite robe and watched as she discarded the harlot’s bright clothing. He washed her face and combed her hair and put his ring back on her finger, then held her through the night as she wept.
We don’t know if Gomer repented, but it’s easy for me to believe she did, because the marriage of Hosea and Gomer is an image of the covenant relationship between God and the children of Israel. In the book of Hosea, which God wrote through the prophet, God tells of a time when He will redeem His people and they will return to Him completely. So I have hope that Gomer, when she was redeemed by her husband, returned to him as well.
God’s love for us is not based on whether we love Him back, and He pursues each of us just as fiercely as any suitor. His love is not based on emotion or feelings, which change like the waves of the sea. No, God’s love is deliberate and active. Jesus came to this earth as a man to show us that He understands our troubles, our frailties, then gave His life so that we may be redeemed from our sin. Just like Hosea, Jesus came a long distance and gave everything He had to purchase us for Himself. All we must do is follow.
And yet, like Gomer, even after we are in relationship with Him we are torn by the desires of the flesh and the love God offers. I think we can all identify with Hosea, because we have all experienced betrayal and hurt. But how many of us will admit that we are more like Gomer, dissatisfied, discontent with the simple joys of communion with Jesus? How often does our heart wander to the things of this world-money, sex, food, drugs, alcohol, etc, and we turn away from God to pursue them? My prayer for myself and for those around me is that we will stay home, safe and sound, and not leave the love of God to chase what can never satisfy, and will only destroy.