The story of Hosea is fairly well-known.
Hosea, a prophet, is commanded by God to enter into marriage with a cult prostitute named Gomer. Their lives, and the lives of their children, are to serve as a living parable for the people of Israel. Hosea is commanded to take in a prostitute as a wife because the people of Israel have prostituted themselves with foreign gods, and have forsaken Yahweh God, the God of their ancestors. Gomer bears Hosea three children: Jezreel, because God is about to punish the house of Jehu for their sins at Jezreel, Lo-Ruhamah (which means not pitied) because God will no longer have pity on the house of Israel, and Lo-Ammi (which means not my people) because Israel is no longer God’s people, and God is no longer their God. The whole story is a reminder of how Israel sinned, how they deserve to be punished, and how in essence, they have cheated on God with false lovers. Israel has searched after other things (fame, recognition, security) instead of placing their trust in God. Israel has been unfaithful, and God will no longer have pity on them, and no longer claim them as God’s own. They are receiving a punishment they deserve.
Eventually Gomer leaves and goes back to her former ways, but Hosea doesn’t abandon her. Hosea is called to search for Gomer and bring her back. Hosea is called to love Gomer and restore their marriage commitment. Hosea becomes another reminder of God’s love; even when we pull away and search after other lovers, God will still take us back. Forgiveness and mercy are real in the life of Hosea.
The true beauty of the story though is found not in the parable, but in the prose of chapter two when God is seen as a husband who pursues his lover trying to woe her back.
“Therefore, I will now allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. From there I will give her her vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she shall respond as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt….On that day, says the Lord, you will call me, “My husband,” I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord.” (Hosea 2:14-16, 19-20)
Here is God pursuing Israel, and in turn pursuing us, trying to entice Israel to come back into relationship. Like a lover who is trying to win the affection of the one he loves, God is trying to win the affection of Israel. I will speak tenderly to her. I will give her vineyards (gifts). I will be her husband, she will be my wife. I will make a covenant with her. Later in the chapter God even says, I will have pity on her, you are my people again. God is reversing the names of Hosea’s children. God is seeking to restore what was lost.
God is doing the same with us. We are not seeking relationship with some aloof being who doesn’t want to be found. We don’t have to try to earn God’s love by performing enough good deeds or keeping enough commandments. God is not just sitting back hoping that we might try to seek relationship. God is pursuing us. God is actively trying to woe us like a lover. God wants to be in relationship with us, God longs to be in relationship with us.
It’s not just that God says, I’m willing to forgive all of your mistakes. If you will make penance than I will accept your apology and allow you to come back. Instead, God is taking the first step. God is pursuing us even when we are far off. God is pursuing us even before we desire to return. God is actively trying to win our affection. Not because God is desperate for our attention, but because God’s love for us is so strong it compels God toward action.
The God of the universe, creator of all that is, is pursuing relationship with us. Rest in that realization today, and give your heart to God in response.