This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

A love story

Have you ever heard of Gomer? I was really impressed by her story recently.

Gomer’s side

Hosea was one of the minor prophets, and God decided to use him as an object lesson. So, God told him to go and marry Gomer, a prostitute. Prostitutes were nothing new in Israel at that time. They lived a tough life. After a while, they became too old and ugly to make much of a living as a prostitute, and ended up selling themselves as slaves. It was really a one-way ticket to a place of no return.

But God had a plan for Gomer, and Hosea picked her up off the street and married her — warts, blemishes, sinfulness and all. I’m wondering how Gomer felt about this. It was probably a dream come true. Security, love, and a warm home to live in. This was all advantage for her.

Unfortunately, Gomer had a problem. It was hard to leave her old life behind, even it was mostly rags and starvation. I’m not sure what happened, but it seems that Hosea was not the father of her second and third child, according to the names he gave them. Apparently, Hosea kept forgiving Gomer for her sin, and continued to love her. But finally, something gave way.

It’s hard to say what happened. Maybe Hosea finally gave up on her. But I suspect that Gomer walked out on him one day, given the story background woven into Hosea’s writing. Maybe she was so ashamed of herself that she couldn’t live with his love anymore. Or maybe her longings for other lovers got the best of her. Maybe she was young, and Hosea was older — a stuffy grey-beard.

Anyway, she left. She went back to the life of the streets, selling her favors to anyone with money, while Hosea looked after her children. Life, however, didn’t go quite like she had envisioned. I suppose she thought back with longing to her secure and love-filled home with Hosea while sleeping in a cold corner of a remote cattle shelter.

This kind of life makes people old before their time. The more haggard she grew, the fewer customers she picked up and the less she had to eat. Finally, she could push it out no more. She sold herself into slavery in the hopes of getting a warm bed and enough to eat.

Hosea’s side

What was Hosea doing in the meantime? I’m assuming that he kept Gomer’s children since she would have had little use for them on the street. I think he missed Gomer. Life was lonely without her. It had really hurt him that she would chose a harlot’s lifestyle rather than the love and security he had offered her. Why had she left him? I can see him struggling with the thought, especially as he looked after his little family of motherless children. He called his daughter “Unpitied” or “Unloved.” Poor girl; now she didn’t have a mother or a father. His other son he called “Not-My-Kin.”

So life went on, but one day, Hosea heard from someone that Gomer had given up. She had sold herself into slavery and was a servant in a house several days journey away. He asked about her whenever he met someone from that town, and soon knew how miserable her life had grown.

He thought, and he prayed. Finally, one day he decided to see if he could buy her back. Surely by now, she would accept his love. So he gathered his savings — all 15 shekels. He had heard that her new owner was tight, so he took along five bushels of barley and a wineskin of wine. They might need to go hungry this winter, but couldn’t wait any longer.

The deal was soon made, and Hosea brought back his wife. How did she feel about it? We aren’t told, but she never ran away again. How did Hosea feel? It was never quite the same again. Sin does that, you know. It has repercussions, but love will eventually win over repercussions. The Bible doesn’t finish the story, but I believe that eventually Gomer was Hosea’s wife again in every way that this entails.

Our side

I think this makes a beautiful picture of Christ and his Bride, the church. I like to narrow it down even more to Christ and me, as his bride. He loved me and accepted me. Yet I had a hard time shaking those old desires. Too often I looked longingly through the window at the world out there. Sometimes I actually slipped out and went back to my old ways.

But Jesus kept loving me. Even if I finally left him totally, he was willing to buy me back again. He welcomed me home. How can I say no to such unselfish love? How can I turn my back on him yet again? He even died for me, and it was my sin that helped to nail him on that cross.

The next time Satan dangles that carrot in front of your eyes, think of that love. Compared with the dungeon Satan is offering you, how could you ever decide to spurn your bridegroom’s love? If you’ve already done that, remember that he still loves you. He is longing for your return. He will pay what is needed to have you come back.

I suspect that Hosea left the final choice up to Gomer when he went to redeem her, and she said yes. Similarly, we need to make our choice as well.

Lester Bauman was born into an Old Order Mennonite family in Ontario and attends a Western Conservative Mennonite Fellowship church near Stirling, Alta. He blogs at Lester’s Bookshelf, where this post first appeared.

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