"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
April 14, 2010
Hosea, who was a prophet in the Old Testament, is a man that few people really like to talk about. He wrote a book that is included in the Bible, but he's someone that we like to overlook and pretend isn't there. We'd rather talk about the heroes and miracles in the Bible.
Hosea lived in Israel. He was intensely concerned for the nations spiritual, moral, political and social corruption. God called Hosea to prophesy to Israel during the last thirty-plus years before the nation crumbled and deteriorated.
Sadly, Hosea's tragic personal life closely resembled the nation of Israel, and was used as an object lesson for the unfaithful northern kingdom. God compared Hosea's marriage to the unfaithfulness and sinful lifestyle that Israel was living during that time.
Hosea married a woman named Gomer, who was a harlot. Many scholars believe that when Gomer was not a prostitute at the time Hosea married her, but that she later turned to adultery and immorality; perhaps eventually serving as a prostitute in the temple of the Baal, who was an idol that many people worshipped during that time. It is not completely clear whether she was a harlot before Hosea married her, or if she turned to that lifestyle afterwards. What we do know, is that Hosea loved his wife, even after she left him for other men.
Gomer and Hosea had three children together, two sons and a daughter, before she left home and turned to a life of prostitution. She deserted her husband and children in order to live an immoral life and worship Baal. Although Hosea's heart was broken, he never gave up on her or stopped loving her. God commanded him to go and express his love and care for Gomer. She was more than likely in debt at that time and about to be sold as a slave, as the law allowed. But Hosea found her and bought her back, at a great cost to himself.
Hosea 3 says, "The Lord said to me, 'Go show your love for 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 and love the sacred raisin cakes' [which were used in the sacrificial feasts in idol worship]. So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a half of barley [which was the price of a slave]. Then I told her, 'You are to live with me for many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with [or wait for] you.'"
In other words, "I will wait for you until you have proved yourself loyal to me, then our marital relations may be resumed."
Hosea loved his wife, but wanted her to prove to him that she would remain home and be faithful to only him. He loved her, and desired her love in return. Even though his heart had been broken by her previous actions, he was willing to give her another chance. He truly wanted his marriage to work.
Hosea and Gomer's marriage was used as an illustration of the nation of Israel. The Israelites had "cheated" on God by turning to idolatry and worshipping other gods. They attributed good harvests to Baal, when in reality it was God's mercy and grace that brought good things to them.
Even though Israel had broken God's heart; by turning to other gods and worshipping them, and loving the pagan cakes used in sacrificial feasts in idol worship; God was willing to pursue the people and bring them back to Himself. He had never stopped loving them or caring for them. But it had to be their choice, whether or not they were going to remain loyal to God and turn away from other "lovers".
It's easy for us to read this story and think it has no application to our lives. But perhaps we can relate to it more than we would care to admit, which is why we tend to overlook it.
We wives can read it and think, "There is no way I'd ever prostitute myself and turn to other lovers!" But being unfaithful is not always a matter of us literally going out and committing adultery. Husbands can also read this and think the same thing about themselves. "I love my wife and wouldn't dream of taking another lover!"
But there are times when couples can be unfaithful in their minds. It may be through reading steamy romance novels or watching inappropriate movies, and fantasizing about other people. It may come through looking at the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated and letting immoral thoughts fill your mind. Television sitcoms give the impression that it is fine for men to look at porn and fantasize about other women. In fact, they give the impression that this is completely normal for all males to do. Women may not find satisfaction in looking at pictures on the internet or in magazines, but will read romance books with very explicit descriptions of sexual acts between men and women. But we tend to justify our actions as being "normal" behavior that's okay. "Everybody fantasizes about other people and has sexual thoughts about people other than their spouse." Or "I don't mean anything by it; it's just a way to relax. I would never actually be unfaithful to my spouse!"
A while back, Jon and I were watching a reality show where couples who are having issues about something, can bring their "case" to a panel of three celebrity judges, who will give their opinion on whether the husband or wife is right or wrong. On this particular episode, the wife was upset because her husband was obsessed with a particular female pop singer. He constantly watched her videos, but would do it behind closed doors, and didn't want his wife in the room while he did this. I doubt that he has ever met this particular celebrity, but in his mind, he was completely consumed with thoughts of her. His wife was upset; and in her mind, he was mentally having an affair with this woman. He had many excuses and justifications for his actions. But I tend to agree with his wife. He may not have physically been having an affair with this woman, but mentally he was having sexual thoughts about her that were unhealthy.
It's situations like this that can cause a spouse to become unhappy in their marriage, or to feel as if they are being cheated on. It can cause ruin to a good marriage, and end in disaster. What may begin as something harmless, can escalate into an obsession, if we don't put a stop to it and end it. What we consider to be harmless games or hobbies or relaxation, can turn into something very real and detrimental to our marriage, if it begins consuming our thoughts.
Watching a music video isn't a big sin. But if we begin fantasizing about that person and allow it to preoccupy our every thought, then we step into dangerous territory. If that person consumes more of our thought than our spouse does, then we have a problem.
Recently, Jon and I were watching a sitcom on TV. The couple decided they needed to spice up their love life, so they began dressing as various characters (nurse, handyman, etc.), and would meet in their bedroom pretending to be other people. One evening they decided to dress up and drive separately to a bar, pretending to be strangers meeting for the first time. The wife didn't like the come-on line from her husband, so told him to leave the room and come back and try it again. He did, and she was playing hard to get. Another lady, sitting at the bar, overheard and began flirting with the husband. He went over and began flirting with her, trying to get back at his wife. After that woman left, the husband turned around, and the wife was flirting with a young, good looking man. The couple ended up getting into an argument and their plan completely backfired on them. After getting back home, the wife asked her husband what was different about this particular situation, than the other nights when they had pretended to be someone else. He said because before, they played themselves pretending to be other people. But that night, she was flirting with another man, and when they were intimate, she would be putting the face of a real person in place of his. They realized the danger zone they had crossed over into, and ended their games right then.
Gomer may not have intentionally left Hosea to become a temple prostitute. In order for her to reach that point, she must have already begun turning her back on God, and taken an interest in worshipping idols. Perhaps, she started getting unhappy in her marriage by thinking, "Other women seem to be having all the fun, and have men taking care of them and bringing them gifts. My husband is off prophesying to the people and getting to travel around, while I'm stuck at home with three kids! Hosea never buys me pretty things. He doesn't appreciate me and all the work I do around here." Perhaps one of the neighbor women worshipped Baal, and began talking to Gomer about this idol; making him sound like the god who would be everything she would ever want. While Hosea was gone, there may have been a man in the community who stopped by to check on Gomer and the kids, and when he sensed her loneliness, began complimenting her on her looks. "If I were your husband, there is no way I'd ever be able to leave you home by yourself!" He may have promised to buy her all kinds of gifts, if she would leave her husband for him. Gomer may have enjoyed the attention she got from other men when she went to the temple of Baal that first time. Perhaps they made her feel beautiful and fed her ego.
Whatever happened to lure Gomer away from Hosea, she ignored her conscience and followed the bait. She left a man who loved her with his whole heart and gave her the best of care. What may have started as an exciting adventure, ended up in tragedy. She found herself in debt, and on the verge of being sold as a slave. I'm sure she thought, "How did I let myself get to this point? I had a husband who took care of me and loved me. Why did I leave?" But when she was the most desperate and felt like her life was over, her husband came and rescued her. I'm sure he wasn't a wealthy man, yet he somehow came up with the needed funds to buy her. He took her back to their home, that she had willingly left.
I cannot imagine how Gomer must have felt when she found out that Hosea had rescued her from a life of slavery. Knowing what type of lifestyle she'd been living, having to look into his eyes that first time and seeing his love for her reflected in his look, must have been very difficult. She must have felt shame and remorse and guilt. When they arrived home, Hosea basically told her, "Here's the rules! You cannot prostitute yourself or be intimate with any man. I need to know that you are going to be faithful to me. You're going to have to prove yourself to me. I will provide a home for you and see that you're cared for during that time. I'll wait for you, and once I know that you're sincere, then we can live intimately as husband and wife."
Many times we "cheat" on God. We may not bow down to idols or worship temples of false gods. But we put other activities and desires before Him. We put pleasure and fun before our worship of God. We put hobbies, games, habits, favorite pastimes, watching TV, reading books, being on the computer, and other things ahead of pleasing God and spending time with Him. We are more interested in pleasing other people and making them happy, than pleasing God and being obedient to Him.
Yet God is always pursuing us. He will run after us, ready to bring us back home and show His love for us. God is quick to forgive, when we repent. Even when we break His heart, He still follows after us; desiring for His people to turn away from sin and return to the safety of His arms.
May we each learn something from the story of Hosea and Gomer; whether it be a spiritual lesson or a lesson on spousal relationships. Let's be faithful and loyal to God, putting Him above everything else in our lives. And let us be faithful to our spouse; not only in our actions, but in our mind. Put aside tempting thoughts and fantasies, thinking it is harmless; and be loyal and faithful to your husband or wife in all things and in all ways. May we all honor God by being faithful to Him and to our spouse.
I've heard of a lot of marriages where the spouses say they only stay together for the sake of the kids. But God's love for us now and for the Israelites in the Old Testament seemed the other way. In Genesis through the Chronicles, again and again, God forgave his people Israel, not for their sake but for the sake of their fathers. One generation after another of the kings of Israel and Judah would abandon God. Then one would return to God, destroy the old idols and temples to idols. Then their descendants would turn away again. But God would withhold his wrath until the third generation for the sake of the first.
That can be a scary situation. Even though the prophets would tell them over and over, they never seemed to understand that they were doing something wrong until the following generation. Gomer may have felt the same way. She may not have realized she was doing something wrong by going to the temple of Baal till it was too late.
And where do we stand? It seems that most of our generation has turned away from God. Can we turn back in this generation, or will a generation following us discover that it's too late?
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sugar
8 oz. roll chocolate chip cookie dough (homemade is actually better)
1 pkg. Heath toffee bits or several crushed Heath candy bars
Press cookie dough into greased pie plate. Mix cream cheeses, eggs, sugar and 3/4 of the toffee bits together. Pour onto cookie dough crust. Bake at 325 for 40-50 minutes. Cool. Refrigerate until thoroughly cold. Can serve by sprinkling remaining toffee bits on top.
My oldest sisters has four boys, which are all close in age. They're all adults now and three of them are married and have kids of their own. But when they were young, one of them was always thinking of something ornery to do. I was talking to one of their wives, and she told me that her husband was always saying that their 4-year old was always into stuff and he "knew" that he was never that bad when he was little. So I found some pictures to email her so she could remind her husband that he was no angel. There was one of him and his brother sitting on top of the kitchen table with their fingers poked in a berry pie my mom had baked and sat in the center of the table out of their reach. Then there was another picture where my nephew had got into my moms flour bin and played. There was flour all over the kitchen floor, and he was covered from head to toe. I also recall him having a temper when he was little. He'd have a wreck on his tricycle, then get up and kick it and say, "Stupid bike! You made me do that!" Thankfully, he outgrew his temper as an adult. I also recall how when he was little he refused to wear pants unless they had belt loops on them. Isn't it funny how parents never seem to remember the things they did when they were little, and always seem to think their kids are much worse than they ever were?!?
For the ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them. Hosea 14:9
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Loretta & Jon