Gomer covered her face in shame after hearing the name Hosea had chosen for her son. Lo-Ammi. “Not my people.” Her husband knew her shame and disgrace. He had found her many times in the beds of other lovers, and sometimes, even in their own with other men. She had been driven by her body into the arms of many others, and Hosea had always taken her back. Called her back. Dragged her back and demanded she stay. Her beautiful daughter played softly in the corner, her older son standing near his father watching Hosea hold the newborn near his heart. Lo-Ammi. Gomer watched him, painfully aware that he already loved this baby that was most likely not his own. Just like he loved Lo-Ruhamah, her little girl. Lo-Ruhamah, “not loved.” He had given her that name at God’s command, and yet, he loved her fiercely. She brought a light into his eyes no one else could. She seemed to be the apple of his eye. Hosea was the strangest man she’d ever known. And she loved him … but not more than she loved herself. She didn’t love anyone more than she loved herself. Not her husband, not her children, and not their God. She knew that. She wished it weren’t true, but she didn’t know how to love anyone, really. She rolled over and covered her head to block out the people in her life, and accepted this new child like she accepted the rest: with resignation and weariness.
I am fascinated by Hosea. A man called to be a prophet, chosen to represent God’s love affair with the children of Israel, and told to marry a prostitute. I can’t even imagine that kind of obedience. God asked for the best years of Hosea’s life and then gave him heartache. And told him to love it, to chase it, to hold onto it no matter what. Hosea obediently married Gomer and was given a son. His firstborn was his own. The children to come were bastards claimed by a man in obedience to the Lord. I believe God filled Hosea with all the compassion and love it would take to deal with the promiscuity of Gomer and to raise her illegitimate children like he was their own father. And I love that about Him.
I imagine the days in their home. Lo-Ruhamah looking lovingly into the eyes of her daddy, this man who called her daily “not loved,” as he held her and gently rocked her to sleep. Lo-Ammi running out to greet Hosea every day after work, running into his arms and hugging his daddy with chubby baby arms. Hosea putting crying children to sleep; they miss their mommy and he’s inwardly torn between his anger and pain on their behalf, and his concern and worry for her. How many nights did he go to bed wondering where Gomer was? How many times and in how many different ways did he excuse her absence in their home? How did he react when she came home on her own after nights spent in other beds? How did he respond to friends and family who knew her shame? How did he explain the names of his children to his mother? I imagine he kept a close eye on his daughter as she grew up, and spoke to her often of the woman he hoped she would be. I hope he told her often that regardless of her name, he loved her. I imagine him working side-by-side with Lo-Ammi, a son who was not his people. I hope he assured him that he would always be there for him, no matter what. I hope Lo-Ammi had the assurance of the prodigal son: that dad would always be there watching and waiting for him to come home no matter where he went or how far he ran. I know by the way Hosea chased Gomer that her children knew the depth of his dedication to their family.
Hosea’s obedience served as a daily reminder to the people of Israel of how much God was committed to them. That no matter how far they run, no matter how many gods they chased after, and gave themselves over to, He was continually calling them back to Him. Although they were so called unloved and not His, He claimed them and loved them unconditionally. In Hosea 2:1, the Lord says, “Say of your brothers, ‘My people,’ and of your sisters, ‘My loved one.” And with that, God reversed the name spoken over them.
Hosea’s story also represented the New Testament dedication of Christ. He came for us. He calls us His bride, and loves us enough that he was willing to take on our sin and our shame. We are Gomer, sleeping around with many others, giving out real estate in our hearts to lesser gods. Being beckoned by a Husband we hardly know how to love. Being drawn back to a man who, like Hosea, gave His life for us. Hosea gave his life in that he was obedient to marry a prostitute and raised her children, enduring a lifetime of heartache and shame because of her. Jesus gave his life to death on a cross, enduring our shame. He looked at our sin and said, “I hate it. And it’s not mine. But I’ll carry it. I will bear it for her, because I love her so much. I am committed to her.” And no matter how bad it hurt, no matter how hard it got, he set his face like flint and endured it for us.
I’m also encouraged by this because when others look at us and decide that we are unloved, and when others don’t want us, we have a Daddy who will hold us and love us anyway. In spite of our shameful past, His arms ache to hold us. We make Him smile. We are the apple of His eye. We are claimed. We are His. He loves us.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)”