Marry a whore. Keep her as your wife. She will betray you continuously, but you must love her and never leave her. You will be rejected continuously. You will be seen as a fool. Your life will be painful. Your reputation challenged. You will need to trust me. You will need to depend on me. You will always need to forgive, always show unconditional love, and always remain faithful in spite of your feelings of betrayal.
Who would ask such a thing? ---God did-of the prophet Hosea. Why? He likes using the dramatic to drive home a point. God uses real-life people like you and me to demonstrate the commonality of our struggle. But the purpose of this story illustrates something profoundly deeper. God is telling us the story of his heart here. By using the sanctity of the marriage bed, and its defilement-- something he knew we could understand-- he shows us something of his pain regarding the betrayal of the children of Israel. Did you catch the part about Hosea loving his wife and never leaving her? Close your eyes for a moment and freeze-frame that scene. You've discovered your spouse has been unfaithful. Not once but dozens of times. This is a person you thought you knew. This is a person you trusted. The truth has seared your soul like a hot iron. Every part of your being cries for justice. Hurt outweighs reason. What should you do?
Now, think about the worst betrayal you have experienced. Close your eyes for a moment and recall the pain. Now imagine you have to experience that pain every day for the rest of your life. And you have to do it with love. By now, most of you are probably thinking, "No way! I wouldn't do it. I couldn't do it. But that's what God does. You may be thinking, Ok, but he's God he's supposed to love unconditionally. You're right. And he does. Over and over he demonstrates his faithfulness to us in spite of our rebellion, just as he did with Israel. He does it to paint a picture of his heart toward you and me. Don't get me wrong-he was angry at Israel's betrayal and continual idolatry. But consider this: here in this story, as always, mercy is remembered in the midst of wrath. Rejection of his children is not an option. God never leaves for a better offer. His love is unfailing and his mercies are new every morning.
The story of Hosea provides a powerful window into the heart of God and how his heart breaks over our constant infidelity and wandering. While this story is symbolic of God's relationship to Israel, it is nonetheless applicable to each and every child God has loved and desired intimacy with. I believe God's heart is saddened under the weight of our lack of faith and trust in his goodness. I believe he is disappointed that we often choose not to see the love of his heart toward us. And just as he lamented over Jerusalem in Luke 13:34, I think his heart is broken at how quickly we forget him to chase after another. So consider this; God wants to show us that even though we whore after other things, even though we don't trust him, even though we rage at him and blame him for our plight-just as the children of Israel did-he waits patiently for us, constantly showing us the mercy and compassion of his heart.
So, the next time you're tempted to believe no one understands your pain-- remember the story of Hosea-- and how God demonstrates his faithfulness to us in spite of our wandering hearts.