Are you a fan of love stories? The classic love stories still capture us and draw us in, classics like, Romeo and Juliet, Gone with the Wind, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast. As we get into the book of Hosea we will find one of the most profound and most amazing love stories in the Bible. Some would even call it scandalous. Here’s how it starts: A guy named Hosea marries a prostitute named Gomer and she breaks his heart by her repeated unfaithfulness, but he keeps taking her back. This relationship is meant to be a living picture that illustrates God and his people. This salacious story is tucked away in the Old Testament of the Bible the section called “The Minor Prophets.” Hosea was a prophet which means he had a message from God for the people. We’re going to learn some incredible things as we look at this book together.
Hosea lived about 755-715 BC in northern Israel. Let’s dive in the book of Hosea, Chapter one, verse one. “The word of the Lord that came from Hosea son of Beeri… during the reign of Jeroboam, son of Jehoash and King of Israel.” Hosea’s name means “salvation” in the Hebrew language. The “word of the Lord” is a phrase that is used 438 times in the Old Testament of the Bible. It’s a phrase about God communicating to people through special prophets that He raised up in the Old Testament times. He asked Hosea to do something shocking. We see it in verse two: “When the Lord began to speak through Hosea the Lord said to him, ‘Go – take to yourself an adulteress wife and children of unfaithfulness.’” Let’s just stop right there! God shows up and says, “Hosea – I want you to marry a prostitute. And you will have children from unfaithfulness in your relationship.” God asked Hosea to do something He has never asked anyone to do. This is not only unique, this is crazy. Hosea has a special role as a prophet for God. He was the spokesperson for God during these desperate times. God was looking out and His people, those who were called by His name were denying Him, turning their backs on Him, they were worshiping false gods. God is heartbroken. What He wants is for Hosea to not only speak His words to the people of Israel but He wanted Hosea to feel the pain that He felt.
In fact, He goes on in chapter 1:2 on why He asks Hosea to do this. He says, “Because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery and departing from the Lord.” The people had turned from God and God loved them so passionately and so intensely that He was going to communicate to them a message that was extreme because of the extreme unfaithfulness that He saw in the people’s lives. Hosea marries Gomer. This is the first time in the Old Testament that the marriage relationship between a man and a wife is fully blown out as a metaphor of God’s relationship to us. As we go on through the Bible we see, “Jesus is the bridegroom,” “We are His bride, the church.” There is a lot of this imagery of marriage in our relationship with God. In Revelation, the last book of the Bible and it says that those who are followers of Christ will be at the wedding celebration of the lamb (Jesus). There’s lots of wedding imagery. This is where it starts in the Old Testament. The relationship of Hosea to Gomer is like God’s relationships to us. Wow! Not a flattering description of you and me to our relationship with God. But it’s true, how often is God faithful to me and yet I am unfaithful to him?
Moving on in our story, Hosea marries Gomer. They have their first child, a son. God says to Hosea, “I want you to name this child, Jezreel.” Jezreel means, “God scatters.” He said, “Because I’m going to bring judgment to my people who have turned their back on me.” Then Hosea has a daughter. God says, “Hosea, I want you to name this child, Lo-Ruhamah. It means not loved.” Think about Hosea going around the house calling out to his children, Jezreel – God scatters and Lo-Ruhamah – not loved. Because he says, “I will no longer love these people.” Then He says, “I want you to have a third child. That child is to be named, Lo-Ammi.” It was a son. It literally means, “Not my people.”
As we read the first nine verses of Hosea we may think, what is God doing? Hosea and Gomer are having kids and God is telling them to name them these horrible names. This is awful. Extreme circumstances require extreme measures. God is sending a message through Hosea to His people. God brings us into the emotional side of His love for us as people. As we read all of this, the first nine verses read like a break up letter. Is God is breaking up with His people?
In human relationships we break up and it’s harsh. We say and do hurtful things. God is different than we are. Yet in the book of Hosea He allows us to step into the emotional side that He loves us so intensely that there is a pendulum that swings back and forth. There are moments where He says, “You are not my people. I’m done with you.” In the very next verse of chapter one everything begins to change. In 1:10: “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand of the seashore which cannot be measured or counted. The place where it was said of them, ‘you are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” God swings the pendulum one way and then He says, “You know what? I do love you and you are driving me crazy, but I can’t give up on you!” God takes us back even when we are unfaithful to him! God loves us period, even when we don’t deserve it.
God’s love for us is illogical and irrational. Why would God love us when we continue to fail and continue to disobey Him? Yet He does. That’s why we are calling this series in Hosea, “Crazy Love.” God’s tremendous love for us as His people is crazy.
I think about author and pastor Max Lucado in his book, “In the Grip of Grace,” when he writes about Jeffrey Dahmer. He says this, “Jeffrey Dahmer murdered seventeen people. When they searched his apartment they found eleven corpses. Dahmer did things that were unthinkable. He ate people’s body parts.” Lucado says, “What disturbs me most about Jeffrey Dahmer is not his ax, not his trail, and not his punishment but his conversion. Months before an inmate murdered him Jeffrey Dahmer became a Christian. He said he repented. He said he was sorry for what he did. He was profoundly sorry and put his faith in Christ. He was baptized. He started life over. He began reading Christian books and attending chapel. Sins washed, souls cleansed, past forgiven – that troubles me. It shouldn’t but it does. Grace for a cannibal. Yet that is how radical God’s grace is.” When we reach out to Him, even if we are powerless in that moment, even if we are ungodly, even if we are sinners He’s willing to forgive us and draw us in.
For some of us today, in our distant state we need to accept God’s crazy love for us. Some of us may have accepted Christ a while back but have never really accepted the fact that God loves you and me as we are. We’ve never really rested in the fact that we already have His love. I know intimately what this is all about. I’ve gotten on the treadmill of human achievement again and again and again. I’ve tried to earn the love of God. He loves us irrespective of whether or not we perform well at work or whether we have it all together on the outside or if you jump through all the right religious hoops. We cannot earn what we already have! What I have found is there are two ways to live our lives. On one way we continue to try to earn it and achieve it and get God’s love. We work hard for it by doing all these things. The other way is to just accept it and rest in it. Then we respond to God out of the love He has already poured out into our lives.
Hosea reminds us, “God is crazy in love with us.” He loves us unconditionally. He remains faithful even if we are unfaithful. He wants this relationship with us that’s deep and profound.
I want to rest in God’s crazy love for me. Will you?