I finished an audiobook recently called “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers. It’s not the kind of book that I would normally read, but it was only $7 on itunes and I had a giftcard to use. Also, the book just came up in the most random conversations quite a few separate times so I thought I’d give it a shot.
The book tells the story the marriage of a girl who goes by quite a few names (Angel, Amanda, Sarah) and her husband Michael Hosea. She was a prostitute, but God told Michael to marry her anyway. It makes for an interesting set of circumstances in which He tries to love her in spite of her “baggage” and she struggles to receive the love that He offers to her – all-the-while trying to learn how to live a new way of life as a wife. The story also mirrors the Biblical account of the prophet Hosea with is prostitute bride, Gomer. Although Redeeming Love takes place in a completely different setting and the author doesn’t follow the Biblical account exactly, there are certainly many similarities. Rivers says herself that her intention was to retell the Biblical story and I’d say she has done a great job of it.
For me, this was a good story to hear during this time in my life. I have been looking for a job for almost a year. I feel like I have tried everything I know – I finished an alternative certification program and have interviewed for a few teaching positions, but I still seem to be coming up short. As a man who wants to provide for his family and make a difference in the lives of students, I feel worthless sometimes. I know God is using this time to mold me and He’s using it in ways I’ll probably never understand, but my knowledge of those things doesn’t make the emotional turmoil I’m feeling go away. With each interview, my hopes are ignited, but with each phone call saying they have chosen someone with more experience, those hopes are thrown to the ground once again. This emotional roller coaster is wearing on me. Today, I spoke harshly to my wife for no reason. This is not who I am – but it seems to be . . . well. . . who I am right now, and it’s not acceptable.
In Redeeming Love, after getting married and running away from Michael, Sarah eventually finds herself on the auction block being sold as a slave. (I can identify – life is being stripped away from me too.) But then, in the last possible moment, Sarah is bought and redeemed. She eventually finds her way back to Michael.
The hope in this story is helpful. My only problem is that I feel like I’ve been on the auction block for a while and for some reason – I guess God thinks I can handle even more stripping before He steps in – or maybe there’s more to learn?? or new habits to develop?? or new thoughts to develop??
Prayer: Lord, if you’re listening, I’m ready. I need You. I need Your help. I cannot do this. I have no power or control. I want to be who You have called me to be. (and I believe that’s a teacher) I want to provide for my family. I want to help students to understand the world around them and live productive lives. I am weak and I need Your strength. I am desperate, but I know You are in control. I will trust You. Help me to stand strong, to trust more, to notice Your gentle nudges and respond appropriately. Lord, help me to be and to become all that You’ve called me to. I surrender. Redeem me. AMEN.
As you read notice that I have inserted a few of my own comments (in blue). I’m hoping that they will help you to understand what you’re reading a bit more.
1 This is God’s Message to Hosea son of Beeri. It came to him during the royal reigns of Judah’s kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. This was also the time that Jeroboam son of Joash was king over Israel. This Whole Country Has Become a Whorehouse
2 The first time God spoke to Hosea he said:
“Find a whore and marry her.
Make this whore the mother of your children.
And here’s why: This whole country
has become a whorehouse, unfaithful to me, God.”
What?? God wants Hosea to marry a prostitute? Yep – you read that right. Hosea is a godly man. He is a prophet. Why would God want him to marry a prostitute? . . . Well, here’s the deal – God wants to show Israel (His chosen people) how much he loves them. God loves them even though they are chasing after false gods and doing things that don’t honor him. Israel is acting like a prostitute. God is gonna use Hosea as an example – He’s asking Hosea to love someone who doesn’t love him back. Kinda like the way God loves us.
3 Hosea did it. He picked Gomer daughter of Diblaim. She got pregnant and gave him a son.
4-5 Then God told him:
“Name him Jezreel. It won’t be long now before
I’ll make the people of Israel pay for the massacre at Jezreel.
I’m calling it quits on the kingdom of Israel.
Payday is coming! I’m going to chop Israel’s bows and arrows
into kindling in the valley of Jezreel.”
6-7 Gomer got pregnant again. This time she had a daughter. God told Hosea:
“Name this one No-Mercy. I’m fed up with Israel.
I’ve run out of mercy. There’s no more forgiveness.
Judah’s another story. I’ll continue having mercy on them.
I’ll save them. It will be their God who saves them,
Not their armaments and armies,
not their horsepower and manpower.”
8-9 After Gomer had weaned No-Mercy, she got pregnant yet again and had a son. God said:
“Name him Nobody. You’ve become nobodies to me,
and I, God, am a nobody to you.
OK – So now Hosea is married to a prostitute and he has 3 kids. Here are their names:
Jezreel (which recalls a sad event in Israel’s history)
Lo-Ruhamah (which means “not loved”)
Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people” – some scholars believe that this was not Hosea’s son but one whose had been fathered by one of Gomer’s customers.)
Whoa – talk about a dysfunctional family!!!
10“But down the road the population of Israel is going to explode past counting, like sand on the ocean beaches. In the very place where they were once named Nobody, they will be named God’s Somebody. 11Everybody in Judah and everybody in Israel will be assembled as one people. They’ll choose a single leader. There’ll be no stopping them—a great day in Jezreel!”
1In that day you will call your brothers Ammi—‘My people.’ And you will call your sisters Ruhamah—‘The ones I love.’ (NLT)
So now it sounds like theirs is gonna be a time when things are gonna be better. Maybe God is hinting that there is gonna be a happy ending to this whole thing.
Now – the next section lists God’s charges against Israel and Hosea’s charges against Gomer (his prostitute wife) I’ll warn you it gets pretty graphic.
2-13 “Haul your mother into court. Accuse her!
She’s no longer my wife.
I’m no longer her husband.
Tell her to quit dressing like a whore,
displaying her breasts for sale. 3If she refuses, I’ll rip off her clothes
and expose her, naked as a newborn.
I’ll turn her skin into dried-out leather,
her body into a badlands landscape,
a rack of bones in the desert. 4I’ll have nothing to do with her children,
born one and all in a whorehouse. 5Face it: Your mother’s been a whore,
bringing bastard children into the world.
She said, ‘I’m off to see my lovers!
They’ll wine and dine me,
Dress and caress me,
perfume and adorn me!’ 6But I’ll fix her: I’ll dump her in a field of thistles,
then lose her in a dead-end alley. 7She’ll go on the hunt for her lovers
but not bring down a single one.
She’ll look high and low
but won’t find a one. Then she’ll say,
‘I’m going back to my husband, the one I started out with.
That was a better life by far than this one.’ 8She didn’t know that it was I all along
who wined and dined and adorned her,
That I was the one who dressed her up
in the big-city fashions and jewelry
that she wasted on wild Baal-orgies. 9I’m about to bring her up short: No more wining and dining!
Silk lingerie and gowns are a thing of the past. 10I’ll expose her genitals to the public.
All her fly-by-night lovers will be helpless to help her. 11Party time is over. I’m calling a halt to the whole business,
her wild weekends and unholy holidays. 12I’ll wreck her sumptuous gardens and ornamental fountains,
of which she bragged, ‘Whoring paid for all this!’
They will soon be dumping grounds for garbage,
feeding grounds for stray dogs and cats. 13I’ll make her pay for her indulgence in promiscuous religion—
all that sensuous Baal worship
And all the promiscuous sex that went with it,
stalking her lovers, dressed to kill,
And not a thought for me.”
She did all this stuff and never even thought about her husband. Remember: Israel was doing this stuff to God too. Have you ever gotten so caught up in what you were doing that you didn’t even think about God? Have you ever decided to do something that you knew you shouldn’t do and ignored God?
Now go back and read verse 8 again. Notice that even when we’re misbehaving, it’s God who is allowing it. Even in our sin, God loves us. (Check Romans 5:8)
This next section describes how much Hosea loves Gomer in spite of how bad she has treated him. (God loves his people in the same way.)
To Start All Over Again
14“And now, here’s what I’m going to do:
I’m going to start all over again.
I’m taking her back out into the wilderness
where we had our first date, and I’ll court her. 15I’ll give her bouquets of roses.
I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope.
She’ll respond like she did as a young girl,
those days when she was fresh out of Egypt.
Wow!! The day will come when he’s gonna take her back to where they first dated and remind her of how good he has been to her. He will remind her of the life they had together before she ran off and got into the whole mess.
16 When that day comes,” says the Lord,
“you will call me ‘my husband’
instead of ‘my master.’[g] 17 O Israel, I will wipe the many names of Baal from your lips,
and you will never mention them again. 18 On that day I will make a covenant
with all the wild animals and the birds of the sky
and the animals that scurry along the ground
so they will not harm you.
I will remove all weapons of war from the land,
all swords and bows,
so you can live unafraid
in peace and safety. 19 I will make you my wife forever,
showing you righteousness and justice,
unfailing love and compassion. 20 I will be faithful to you and make you mine,
and you will finally know me as the Lord. 21 “In that day, I will answer,”
says the Lord.
“I will answer the sky as it pleads for clouds.
And the sky will answer the earth with rain. 22 Then the earth will answer the thirsty cries
of the grain, the grapevines, and the olive trees.
And they in turn will answer,
‘Jezreel’—‘God plants!’ 23 At that time I will plant a crop of Israelites
and raise them for myself.
I will show love
to those I called ‘Not loved.’
And to those I called ‘Not my people,’
I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’
And they will reply, ‘You are our God!’”
When things get better between Hosea and Gomer, everyone else will benefit too. Their kids (Jezreel, “not loved,” and “not my people”) will become blessed again too.
In Time They’ll Come Back
1 Then God ordered me, “Start all over: Love your wife again, your wife who’s in bed with her latest boyfriend, your cheating wife.
Love her the way I, God, love the Israelite people,
even as they flirt and party with every god that takes their fancy.”
2I did it. I paid good money to get her back.
It cost me the price of a slave. 3Then I told her, “From now on you’re living with me.
No more whoring, no more sleeping around.
You’re living with me and I’m living with you.”
4 The people of Israel are going to live a long time
stripped of security and protection,
without religion and comfort,
godless and prayerless. 5But in time they’ll come back, these Israelites,
come back looking for their God and their David-King.
They’ll come back chastened to reverence
before God and his good gifts, ready for the End of the story of his love.
This last section is my favorite. Check out verse 2, “I did it. I paid good money to get her back. It cost me the price of a slave.”
Whoa! Imagine that scene. He loved her, cherished her, took care of her, and provided for her. She runs off and becomes a prostitute. She get into all kinds of junk. Lives a party lifestyle – lots of different men, lots of hotel rooms, lots of drinking and drugs. She finally hits bottom and is being sold as a slave on an auction block. Probably stripped naked and standing in front of a crowd of people, she is being sold to the highest bidder – and no one is bidding. No one wants her.
Then, from somewhere in the back of the crowd, she hears a voice, “I’ll take her.” She sees the crowd begin to part as the stranger makes his way to the front.
Her eyes meet the face of the man she ignored and treated so badly. It’s Hosea. In her horrible broken condition, he buys his own wife back. He takes her just as she is. He loves her just as she is. We know he’s planning on taking her back to the place they first dated – reminding her of they life together and his amazing love, care, & protection.
The story of Hosea’s love for Gomer is also the story of God’s love for us. We are the prostitute. He is the lover. It doesn’t matter how bad things have gotten or how far you’ve gone away from God. It doesn’t matter what kinds of things you’re into or how bad things have gotten. God loves you just as you are. He has paid the price (His own’ son’s blood) to have you back. He has redeemed you from your old life.
I just found out last night that the Book of Jonah is not about a guy running from God, getting eaten by a whale, preaching to an ungodly nation, and then going into depression. This was a surprise to me, but God didn’t send Jonah to Ninevah to save the Ninevites. God sent him there to save Israel and bring them to repentance!!! If you’re like me, you’re saying, “Huh? I don’t see anything about Israel when I read it.”
OK – here’s how it all works: First of all, let’s make it clear – I believe that the story of Jonah is a REAL story. It’s an actual historic event. In the same way that Ezekiel laid on his side for 390 days to show Israel that God would bear their sin for 390 years, I believe that what happened to Jonah, was allowed by God so that He could show Israel a few things.
Another bit of understanding you need before we launch in to this explanation is this: Over and over the OT prophets have resounded one specific message. “Repentance and obedience leads to restoration and life, while disobedience leads to death.”
Jonah = Israel – He was given the responsibility to take God’s message to Ninevah (Assyrians) just as Israel is supposed to represent God to the entire world. Israel chooses to follow after other gods ignoring their calling. Jonah runs from his calling and ends up on a ship full of foreigners. When the storm came, these foreigners cried out to their gods and sought their help while Jonah slept down below still ignoring God. When the men ask Jonah what they should do, he knows that all that is required is his repentance and obedience, but he chooses to die instead and asks them to throw him overboard. (Remember: in the OT he is “saved” simply because He is a Jew. The law wasn’t given to save them, (they had already been promised a Kingdom), but it was meant only to set them apart and make them holy among the nations of the world.) Anyway, as soon as the fish swallows him, Jonah already knows he’s been saved. When he prays in Chapter 2, he already knows he’s saved. Notice verse 2:8 – He also knows that like him, Israel has chosen death over repentance, but as for him, he now chooses repentance. When Jonah goes to Ninevah (Assyria) the Assyrians repent and are saved. Again, foreigners who are seeking God while Israel is ignoring Him.
Assyria = the great fish – Because they sought God while Israel (Jonah) ran from Him, God allows Assyria to “swallow” Israel in the captivity.
After Assyria is saved, Jonah again chooses death over repentance, just like Israel had been doing for years.
Plant = Jeraboam – God appointed a “little plant” to grow up and offer temporary comfort to Jonah. In the same way, Jeraboam was given a little success to comfort Israel temporarily.
Worm = Tiglath Pileser – He destroys Jeraboam
East Wind = Assyrians – The Assyrians come from the east and overtake Israel swallowing them up into their own kingdom.
Remember, this whole story happened before the events of the captivity had occurred. These prophecies and parallels are remarkable considering that. When Jonah gave this message to Israel, they would have picked up on these symbols rather quickly as there are other prophets who had been speaking of these things too who used many of the same phrases and language. (Check Amos and Hosea)
In the end, we can conclude that Jonah was sent to Assyria not to save them, but to bring Israel back this message which was meant to lead them to repentance/obedience and renewal/life.