By chapter 2, years had gone by.
Gomer had taken on her other lovers, she was faithless and promiscuous. Hosea was in an agony of grief, and betrayal, just as God was in grief and betrayal over Israel.
First, God blocked Israel’s path with a thorn bush, not to make her miserable, but to keep her from the evil that she so desired. Yet, Israel’s story was being played out in Gomer’s story.
Yet, when Gomer left Hosea—and her children—it was after a process. Maybe it started with a growing restlessness with having settled into domestic life, having and raising children, the mundaneness of chores, cooking, laundry, the deadening every-dayness of it all. Maybe Gomer began to go on outings with her girlfriends, back to those shaded incense altars.
By verse 5, it is revealed that Gomer’s children were most likely not Hosea’s children. She had already been entertaining lovers for a while, and she had already been accepting gifts from them.
The hedge God finally put around Israel, and consequently Gomer, was to keep her from the evil that she so wanted. You and I have an opportunity to be close to God as we dig deep into His word, apply His word and way to our lives, do His work, bear His fruit. Are you feeling frustrated, or thankful, for the ways it feels like God is hedging you in right now? How possible is it that God’s aim is to protect your heart from straying?
Gomer said she would go back to her husband, since the way to her lovers was blocked, but she didn’t go back, just as Israel, later in this story, pretended to repent … but it wasn’t real.
She has not acknowledged that I was the one
who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil,
who lavished on her the silver and gold—
which they used for Baal.Hosea 2:8 (NIV)
Hosea had continued to take care of Gomer, making sure she had food and clothes, a roof over her head and even lavish gifts, all given quietly to her lovers to provide for her. Yet she did nothing to acknowledge Hosea’s care.
It’s so easy to forget from Whom every good gift comes. Physical gifts such as a shelter, food, clothing, health, education, opportunity…and then there are the inner gifts of intelligence, talent, character, joy, and most importantly love. Who do you and I acknowledge for these good things? Maybe our genetics, maybe our own street smarts, or know-how, or can-do.
Yet, when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He pointed to God as the giver of even our daily bread, as our protector from evil. Time and again, Jesus pointed to God as a good Father who gives good gifts, a generous Father Who is eager to bless, a kind Father Who gives to the earth and all people purely out of His love and grace, and not based in the least on merit or deservingness. How easy it is to forget.
Just as Hosea finally let Gomer go completely, so God was going to let Israel go.
God would now withhold His good gifts. Israel would find itself stripped of everything, alone, in a harsh environment.
Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.Hosea 2:14-15 (NIV)
In this way God would allure Israel in the desert of exile. In the harsh and foreign place of Assyria, Israel would finally listen to God’s tender voice, and respond so deeply to God’s wooing that after 70 years, when they at last returned home to the Promised Land, they would never, ever again worship idols.
In preparing to write this post, I thought about the times of dryness I’ve gone through, times when I’ve felt alone, unseen, unloved, isolated, with little hope. Times of lostness, without a clear way forward, not knowing what my purpose is, why am I even here.
Literally constrained in a dark prison cell, St. John of the Cross wrote a poem called Dark Night of the Soul, expressing his heartache and longing, offering hope to all of us who find ourselves there.
Maybe God has taken from you what you have grown in affection for, your health, friends, children, intimate relationships, promise for the future, opportunities, maybe even your joy. I wonder if God is alluring you into a desert place, keeping you close to Him for a while, where He has said He will wait for you.
For Gomer this felt like total deprivation, and yet it was the very best thing for her, as Hosea wooed her back to himself. Allowing God to allure me, when I sense I am in the wilderness, letting Him speak tenderly to me, allowing this time alone with God to be enough makes these wilderness times turning points in my life.
When I look back, even now as I type these words, I can recognize how, in due time God returned fruitfulness to my life, turned my trouble into hope, and I was able to sing for real, experience joy, rather than just the hope for the hope of joy, in faith.
Just as Gomer was betrothed to Hosea, so you and I discover that to be betrothed in faithfulness to God is a permanent change that will help us weather the worst of crises.
Dark Night of the Soul, by St. John of the Cross
On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings–oh, happy chance!–
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.
In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised–oh, happy chance!–
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.
In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide, save that which burned in my
This light guided me
More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me–
A place where none appeared.
Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!
Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.
The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand he wounded my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.
I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.
Found on Poet Seers
[St. John of the Cross | Francisco de Zurbarán / Public domain]