Christine Wilkens, EAC Director of Counseling at Azimuth Counseling
The Book of Hosea is where we clearly see the metaphoric language of marriage used to describe the relationship between God (the husband) and Israel (the wife). Hosea did not come up with this idea on his own; God gave it to him when God told Him to marry Gomer. This prophet was selected to illustrate the profound betrayal God experiences when His people, whom He lovingly invites into an enduring covenant, like marriage, began to live like Gomer, the whore.
Hosea’s marriage illustrates the tension between the absolute and unquenchable love of God and God’s anger at self-centered and willful betrayal by His people. We, today, are no different from the people of Israel, even though we like to think we are! We, too, often turn from our commitment to God to “worship” other things, even good things, which soon become “gods” in our lives. “Oh”, we may say, “we aren’t committed to, or loving, this person or that thing, at least not above our love for God!” If you find yourself saying that, then an interesting self-examination you can take is to ask yourself what compares with the level of time and attention you focus on a relationship, hobby object or goal, and then compare it to how often to focus your attention on worship or think about God.
This portion of scripture also profoundly illustrates the difference between God’s capacity for love and my human capacity for love. God’s restorative love is always there for us even in His agony, anger, boundary setting and discipline. Many times human marital love doesn’t survive even one betrayal, let alone multiple ones like what occurred in Hosea and Gomer’s marriage. As a psychotherapist, I work with many couples who have had the painful experience of emotional or sexual betrayal. Both types of betrayal are profoundly damaging in marriages, and it is always an extremely painful process for the betrayed spouse to find out and then work to reset healthy boundaries, to learn to trust and forgive so that deep committed love can develop once again. Hosea’s experience demonstrates that God’s love is beyond reason, it is supernatural and thoroughly redemptive. This is the kind of love we all so desperately need. Beyond that, our God’s love is a jealous love that will not tolerate other gods and will include discipline, boundary setting and persistence in seeking us even when we are unrepentant, like Gomer.
It is often easier to have this kind of love for our children since we don’t hold them to the same standards of love that we may hold our spouse to. Our children do not make an agreement when they come into the world “to love us till death do us part,” even though that would be all parents heart’s desire, We parents know that not if, but when they disobey or betray our trust, it hurts but it doesn’t cut us to the core like the betrayal of a spouse! God wanted to illustrate the scorching level of pain and then demonstrate His unimaginable ability to love even in the midst of His pain and anger. This was a brilliant, albeit unsavory, demonstration of God’s agony, expressed in a way that could be understood by Israel, and us today. Only with this perverse story could the people come to understand the depth of their betrayal of their commitment to God. And only by witnessing this husband’s supernatural love would we begin to understand the magnitude of God’s mercy and love for us …even after our betrayals. Hosea’s job was to be a living illustration of God’s agony and profound love at a time in history when this truth had been rejected – like it is today!
Our prayer: Oh, Lord God, have mercy and forgive us for our hearts of betrayal! Let us always live in awe, and speak continually of, your matchless, great love!