Pastor Aaron Odya’s blog can be followed here.
Hosea 1:2; 3:1
When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord.”…
The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods…”
America is a nation thoroughly embroiled in scandals these days. Harvey Weinstein, Larry Nassar, the #MeToo movement, and more. But thousands of years earlier there was another talk-of-the-town scandal that involved one of God’s prophets, a man named Hosea.
In what must have been a shock to Hosea, God commands Hosea to marry a woman named Gomer who was a known adulteress. Through Hosea’s experience, God was going to act out a real-life parable that illustrated his relationship with and his love for Israel.
Gomer bears three children. Yet it seems that at least some of them were fathered not by Hosea, but by one or more of Gomer’s lovers. Yet Hosea doesn’t divorce her or condemn her to death (Lev. 20:10). He continues to take her back.
Then, for a time, she left Hosea completely for another man (3:1), likely also living as a prostitute (3:3). Gomer was an unfaithful wife who had many lovers.
And yet, what does God tell Hosea after all this? “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods…”
Imagine the town gossip this stirred up. Imagine all the people questioning Hosea, pestering and bothering him for doing what no sane, rational person would ever do: Love a serial adulteress. Imagine all the degrading jokes Hosea may’ve endured at the hands of his community. And yet, in this scandal, God was trying to teach Israel—and us—something about his love.
Christian author Philip Yancey sums this love, this story up well in his book “What’s so Amazing about Grace?”:
“In Hosea, the scandal of grace became an actual, talk-of-the-town scandal. What goes through a man’s mind when his wife treats him as Gomer treated Hosea? He wanted to kill her, he wanted to forgive her. He wanted divorce, he wanted reconciliation. She shamed him, she melted him. Absurdly, against all odds, the irresistible power of love won out. Hosea the cuckold, joke of the community, welcomed his wife back home.
“Gomer did not get fairness, or even justice; she got grace. Every time I read their story—or read God’s speeches that begin with sternness and dissolve into tears—I marvel at a God who allows himself to endure such humiliation only to come back for more. “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?” [11:8] Substitute your own name for Ephraim and Israel. At the heart of the gospel is a God who deliberately surrenders to the wild, irresistible power of love.” (p. 66)
What a comforting message God shares with us through the bitter life experience of the prophet Hosea. He continues to love and take back those who are unfaithful to him.
In this real-life parable, we see that God is gracious. That word grace refers to a special kind of love that is not earned or deserved. As retired Pastor and Professor Daniel Deutschlander wrote: “Grace is a unique kind of love that God alone has. It is not a quantity to be measured; for nothing in God is capable of measure or limitation. It is rather an attitude, a disposition in God, by which he loves with no other reason for it than God himself. God loves because that is his nature, that is his essence. God loves, not because the object is loveable but because he is loving.” (“Grace Abounds” p. 111) And because God is gracious, there is nothing we can do to make God love us more, nor is there anything we can do to make God love us less. We have his love, regardless of what we do and don’t do. He never drives away those who come to him with a broken and contrite heart. And that is what makes grace the best scandal there ever was.
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In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest:
2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.’ ”
3 Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
7 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD. 9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.”
Has someone ever said to you, “Put your own house in order first,” or “Tend to your own house first”? What they mean is, “Before you criticize or interfere in my life, take care of the mess in your own.” And Scripture does issue warnings against those who are lazy and/busybodies (II Tim. 3:6-15).
Through the Prophet Haggai, God turns these words of wisdom on their head. You see, the remnant of God’s people had returned from their 70 year time-out (exile) in Babylon. They had begun rebuilding their nation. We’re told that they were living in paneled houses. That may not sound all that spectacular according to our standards today, but it was quite luxurious for ancient times. We’re also told that they “planted much,” “eat much,” “drink,” “earn wages.” In other words, they had worked hard not just to rebuild their nation, but also to get their economy going again to the point where they could enjoy a high standard of living. They had, by all outward appearances, gotten their houses in order.
But something essential was missing. While they were busy getting their own houses in order, they had neglected the most important house of all—the house of God, the temple. This was symptomatic of a much greater malady: While they were busy putting their worldly houses in order, they neglected the spiritual house of their hearts. From a worldly standpoint, their nation was doing pretty well post exodus. From a spiritual standpoint, the nation was still in ruins.
God wasn’t upset about this because he was looking for more attention. He was upset in the way that we would be if a close friend or family member suddenly cut us off. He wanted his house rebuilt so that the people could take time out of their weekly lives to spend with their heavenly Father. He wanted his house rebuilt so that the people could once again encounter God through his proclaimed Word and the sacrifices, which were designed to point the people ahead to the sacrifice God’s Messiah would make for the world’s sins.
Instead, the Jews were focusing on this world. So God asked them to consider their ways: “You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” God caused the land to yield poor harvests and struck the Jewish economy with inflation. He did this so that they might seek him out and find the true rest that comes from God—rest for our souls.
Do you have your house in order—your spiritual house, that is? Have your life plans been frustrated, and might that possibly be God nudging you to spend more time with him in his Word and Meal—the Lord’s Supper? Just as parents want the love of their children, so God wants the hearts of his people. He invites us:
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” (Is. 55:1-2)
“Listen,” he encourages us, “listen to my word. Fill your soul on the words I have to say. They are the finest feast you will ever lay eyes on. They are the richest food you will ever devour. My words are spirit and they are life.”
Pastor Aaron Odya’s blog can be followed here.