Undying Love— The Story of Hosea and Gomer
Gomer was still beloved of Hosea even though she was an adulteress, and God wanted him to seek her out and prove his love to her. How could anyone love that deeply? The answer was right there in God’s instructions to Hosea, “even as the Lord loves.” Only one who knows the love and forgiveness of God can ever love this perfectly. And one who has experienced His loving forgiveness cannot help but love and forgive others. Christian husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the Church (Eph. 5:25), and Hosea is an outstanding biblical example of that kind of love.
So he began his search, driven by that indestructible divine love, love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, love that never ends. And he found her, ragged, torn, sick, dirty, disheveled, destitute, chained to an auction block in a filthy slave market, a repulsive shadow of the woman she once was. We wonder how anyone could love her now. But Hosea bought her from her slavery for fifteen shekels of silver and thirteen bushels of barley (Hos. 3:2). Then he said to her, “You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you” (Hos. 3:3). He actually paid for her, brought her home, and eventually restored her to her position as his wife. While we do not find anything else in Scripture about their relationship with each other, we assume that God used Hosea’s supreme act of forgiving love to melt her heart and change her life.
How many times should a husband or wife forgive? Some contend, “If I keep forgiving I simply affirm him in his pattern of sin.” Or “If I keep forgiving, she’ll think she can get away with anything she wants.” Others say, “If I keep forgiving, it’s like putting my seal of approval on his behavior.” Or “I can’t take another hurt like that. If he does that one more time, I’m leaving.” Those are human responses. Listen to the response of the Lord Jesus. You see, Peter had asked the Lord this same question: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” The Lord’s answer was, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21, 22). That is a great deal of forgiveness. In fact, Christ was simply saying in a captivating way that there is no end to forgiveness.
Sometimes it’s just the little slights and daily agitations that need forgiveness, the occasional sharp word or angry accusation. But we harbor it, let it eat at us, and build up bitterness and resentment which erodes our relationship. Maybe it’s a major offense, like Gomer’s, and we can never forget it. We stew on it and fret over it, and we keep bringing it up in a subconscious attempt to punish our mates for the hurts we have suffered. We try to forgive, but a few days later it’s right there again, preying on our consciousness. Big wounds sometimes take longer to heal. They will come back to our minds. There is no way to avoid it. But every time they do, we must first remind ourselves that we really did forgive, then rehearse how much God has forgiven us, then ask Him to take the destructive, unforgiving thoughts out of our minds.
Forgiveness does not necessarily mean that we must suffer in silence. The need for open and honest communication would demand that we share what we think and how we feel, what the wrong has done to us, and how our mates can help us get over it. God tells us how much our sin grieves Him. Gomer certainly knew how her affairs were tearing at Hosea’s heart. What we say must be said lovingly and kindly, but we have both the need and the obligation to share what is on our hearts.
Neither does forgiveness necessarily mean we cannot take positive steps to guard against the sin recurring. That might require some extended counseling; it might demand an honest reappraisal of our personalities or habit patterns; it might mean a change in our life-style or a relocation. God takes positive steps to help us want to please Him. That is what divine discipline is all about. We do not discipline each other, but we can discuss steps that will help us avoid these same pitfalls in the future.
Forgiveness does mean, however, that we will pay for the other person’s offenses. We will refuse to retaliate in any way to make the guilty person pay. We will absolve him of all guilt. God can use that forgiving love to melt hardened hearts and change callused lives quicker than anything else in this whole wide world. That is the lesson of Hosea and Gomer, the lesson of forgiveness. God’s love and forgiveness pervade Hosea’s entire prophecy. Please do not misunderstand it. God hates sin; it grieves His heart; He cannot condone it; His perfect righteousness and justice demand that He deal with it. But He still loves sinners and diligently seeks them out and offers them His loving forgiveness.
God’s ancient people Israel kept going back to their sins. “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? For your loyalty is like a morning cloud, and like the dew which goes away early” (Hos. 6:4). But God never stopped loving them. “When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son” (Hos. 11:1). “I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love” (Hos. 11:4). “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel?” (Hos. 11:8). And because He never stopped loving them, He never stopped pleading with them: “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity” (Hos. 14:1).
We need to love like that. We need to forgive like that. We need to drag the festering hurts we have been harboring in our hearts to the cross of Christ—where we laid our own burden of guilt one day and where we found God’s loving forgiveness—and we must leave them all there. When we fully forgive, our minds will be released from the bondage of resentment that has been building a wall between us, and we shall be free to grow in our relationship with each other.
Let’s talk it over
1. What do you think are the major causes for husbands and wives drifting apart?
2. What interests do you both share in common? What else could you do together to strengthen your bond of oneness?
3. Husbands and wives are not always aware of each other’s love. It might be helpful for each of you to finish the following statements: “I feel loved when you …” or “I am saying that I love you when …”
4. Can you think of wrongs you have suffered from your mate that may be keeping you from freely expressing your love? Admit them to your mate and verbalize your full forgiveness.
5. How can you keep the wrongs for which you have forgiven others from creeping back into your mind and destroying your peace?
6. What positive steps can you and your mate take to keep certain sins from repeating themselves in your lives?