February is the month that holds Valentine’s Day, a holiday that might be particularly sweet, or especially painful, depending on the current state of your marriage. This year, the general sense of romance in the air tied to the holiday brought my mind back to the love story of Hosea.
If you’re unfamiliar, Hosea’s story is both radically romantic and tragically awful at the same time. God instructs Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer and love her dearly as his bride. Over time they have a few kids, but the impression we get from Hosea 2 is that even during those family growth years, Gomer remained perpetually unfaithful. Eventually, Gomer leaves Hosea altogether for the arms of another lover. Despite all this, God instructs Hosea in chapter 3 to go and redeem his wife. He wants Hosea to bring Gomer back and love her. It’s romantic and terrible, all at once.
There’s a bigger point though: Hosea’s marriage to Gomer illustrates for us the marriage of God to His people. Israel had been terribly unfaithful, and not due to anything God had done – He’d shown them nothing but love and kindness. Still, they turned away from Him. But He would not turn from them. He would redeem them; His love would not fail.
I want to highlight just a few things this story teaches us about God, particularly from the following passage, where God addresses His unfaithful people with compassion.
Hosea 2:16 “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’…18b I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.
Delighted to Call Us His Spouse
Despite knowing all the faults and failures of Israel, despite her utter betrayal, God does not turn away from her. Instead, He ties Himself to His people in marriage – the closest social relationship anyone can have. He says, “You will call me my husband…no longer my Baal.”
He didn’t want to be just a God to Israel. He wanted to be her Husband. That’s the association He wanted.
Do you remember how, in the early days of your marriage, you found such joy in introducing your spouse to people? You got to say, “She’s my wife.” “He’s my husband.” The joy we found in that is like the joy of God in referring to us as His Bride. In light of our unfaithfulness, that is an incredible truth!
Fostering Peace, Not Tension
Next, despite knowing all the faults, failures, sins of His spouse, God does not respond as those things deserved. Rather than being angry, moody, cold or distant, and thus creating an environment of tension, God instead creates for His spouse an environment of peace. He says, “I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.” He works to make His spouse feel protected, safe, loved.
We may do that some in protecting our spouse from outside harm, but then we turn around and inflict that harm ourselves with things we say, things we do, and thus we fail to foster a relationship saturated in grace and peace. God’s example shows us a better way.
Committed to Give Himself
Though His spouse is not in any way treating Him rightly, God’s love and commitment are unshaken. He says, “I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.”
Commitment is a big thing, steadfast love is a big thing, as are demonstrating righteousness and justice, mercy, and faithfulness. We need these things in our relationships, we need to treat each other in these ways.
But I think what strikes me most here is the last few words: “And you shall know the Lord.” Despite all they’ve been through, God gives Himself relationally to His spouse in a way that she can know Him. He shares who He is with her.
When a spouse sins against us, or even if they just aren’t perhaps giving us the attention we want, how quick are we to close ourselves off some? To hold ourselves back? To not let them truly know us? Either because we’re afraid they’ll hurt us, or because we think they’re getting what they deserve, or whatever other reason.
God doesn’t do that. He wants us to know Him, so He gives Himself freely to us.
Through Hosea and Gomer’s story, God helps us better understand the story that we’re a part of: as followers of Jesus Christ, we are also the bride of Christ. And Christ is a husband who, despite knowing all our sins and failures, takes joy in calling us His bride, lavishes us with grace and peace, and commits to continually give of Himself, that we may know Him for who He truly is.
Take comfort today. Whether your earthly marriage is what you want it to be or not, in Christ you have a perfect husband who knows you better than you know yourself, warts and all, and loves you dearly with all His heart.
May we, by abiding in His love, grow in His likeness toward our earthly spouse.