Modeling God's Message
by Charles R. Swindoll
Hosea started a scandal in the parsonage. Why? Hold onto your hat—he married a prostitute. Talk about gossip! His name became a byword for "fool." Respect for him dropped to zero. His reputation was suddenly null and void. "Small wonder he is listed first among the minor prophets," some sneer . . . "He must have been some kind of a nut."
No. Wrong again, O critic. Hands down, Hosea was one of the most patient, tender, and loving of all the ancient prophets. Obedient to the core. Faithful to the end. "Then why in the world would a man such as he fall for a woman such as she?" Keep holding on to your hat—God told him to! That's right. God chose Hosea to model his message before all Israel, like a neon sign alongside the freeway. Like bold headlines in the Times. Of course, they didn't know it at first.
Barmaids giggled and merchants snickered as wedding bells rang across the valley. "Hey, did you hear the latest? Gomer got married—she got herself a preacher!" How humiliating it must have been. Everywhere they went on their honeymoon, she saw familiar faces. Insulting insinuations were uttered in smothered tones. Hosea must have bit his tongue until it bled. His marriage was an act of love . . . but to the public it was a joke. Before God, he stood justified and obedient. Before man, undiscerning and idiotic.
He must have replayed his memory hundreds of times, remembering God's directive:
"Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry." (Hosea 1:2)
That's exactly what happened. She gave birth to a daughter and two sons while Hosea's wife—each was illegitimate—before she left home and went back into the streets. Hosea's wound was scarcely healed before he heard God's voice thundering from the heavens telling him to go out, find her, and bring her back into his home with the family. He did. For a couple of dollars and several bushels of barley he bought her from others' arms and claimed her as his own. Stretch your imagination and try to picture the love and dedication it took for Hosea to carry out God's instructions. The Living Bible paraphrases the statement:
"Go, and get your wife again and bring her back to you and love her, even though she loves adultery." (Hosea 3:1 TLB)
Not another soul in Israel heard the voice. Only Hosea. Therefore, rumors turned into ridicule as his fellow Jews watched with open mouths as he stooped down and lovingly carried her home. Little did the people realize they were observing a living object lesson—a divine pantomime—designed by God to illustrate the truth of their own lives.
From the fourth chapter to the end of his journal (once Hosea had their attention), he exhorted them to listen . . . to hear . . . to return. Fifteen times he shouted, "RETURN!" but they never did. Even though he modeled the message as no other man on earth would be asked to do, they ignored his cries. He told them the truth: "You are the harlot! You have left Jehovah's love. You have resisted His affection and denied your marriage. He continues to call you His own . . . but you refuse to return. He loves you still. Return!" They didn't. And three tragic years later Israel crumbled in the hands of Assyria.
Having a tough time modeling God's message? Feel unappreciated? Misunderstood? A little foolish? Ridiculed? So it goes, pilgrim. Rose gardens and pillow fights went out with the flood. These are rugged days. Without much padding in the seats or protection from the wind. It takes two things to keep from folding in the stretch: a tough hide and a tender heart. Hosea had both. And the scars to prove it. He died rejected and ignored.
So did Christ . . . until the resurrection.
Excerpted from Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, Copyright © 1983 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by arrangement with Zondervan Publishing House.