Did Hosea Love Gomer?

Yesterday our college Sunday School class began a study of the book of Hosea. It was a good lesson, and I’m looking forward to digging into this book over the next few weeks!

Our discussion of the first three chapters of Hosea ended with what I thought was a really good question. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and weren’t able to address it in class, so I thought I’d do so here. The question is this:

When Hosea redeemed Gomer, bringing her back to his home and promising her his own faithfulness despite her infidelity, did his actions show that he loved her, or was he simply obeying God?

On first examination of the passage (Hosea 3), it might seem that we can’t know this. After all, Scripture never reveals anything further about the relationship between Hosea and Gomer. But this line of thinking is evidence of our culture’s understanding that love is a feeling. The Biblical concept of love is so much more!

Throughout the Bible, and especially in the New Testament, we learn that love is an action; it is a way of acting intentionally toward another person that reflects the disposition of God toward his children. The most famous biblical definition of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13. Notice that this description includes many things that love is or does, but nothing that it feels. Further examples include John 15:13, Romans 5:8,and Romans 12:9-21.

The final nail in the coffin of love-as-a-feeling should be Jesus’ exhortation to love our enemies (Luke 6:27). Certainly in this we see that love is a conscious and deliberate choice, not something our feelings incline us to do. If loving our enemies required us to exhibit the type of sentimentalism to which the modern concept of “love” is typically reduced, who could do it? Yet Christ clearly expects this to be something which all Christians can and must do.

Furthermore, we see that love is something God commands. Several times in Jesus’ earthly ministry, he said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another” (John 15:12 for example). Over and over, Christ told his disciples to follow the example he set, as he showed them what love really looks like. His disciple John passed on this teaching, telling us that God is love, and all love comes from him. “If God loved us (‘while we were still enemies’, Paul adds), then we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).

So back to our original question. Did Hosea love Gomer, or was he just obeying God? Hopefully we can see by now that this is a false choice. In pursuing a woman who was fleeing him, giving everything he had to redeem someone who had so thoroughly betrayed him, and renewing his commitment of faithfulness to and provision for a whore who deserved death instead (Leviticus 20:10), Hosea did exactly what God had commanded. But this is in no way opposed to love; this is what love is! God was demonstrating through the relationship of Hosea and Gomer the type of unmerited redeeming love he was about to pour out on Israel, and which Christ poured out on Calvary for those he came to save.

May we all learn through our study of Hosea what it means to be loved by this great God, and to love others as he has loved us.

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us.” ~ Luke 1:68-69

Listen to Brooke Fraser’s song “Hosea’s Wife”, and reflect on the lyrics:

Lyrics

I just spoke silence with the seeker next to me
She had a heart with hesitant, halting speech
That turned to mine and asked belligerently
“What do I live for?”

I see the scars of searches everywhere I go
From hearts to wars to literature to radio
There’s a question like a shame no one will show
“What do I live for?”

We are Hosea’s wife
We are squandering this life
Using people like ladders and words like knives

[CHORUS]
If we’ve eyes to see
If we’ve ears to hear
To find it in our hearts and mouths
The word that saves is near
Shed that shallow skin
Come and live again
Leave all you were before
To believe is to begin

There is truth in little corners of our lives
There are hints of it in songs and children’s eyes
It’s familiar, like an ancient lullaby
What do I live for?

We are Hosea’s wife
We are squandering this life
Using bodies like money and truth like lies

[CHORUS]

[Bridge]
We are more than dust
That means something
That means something
We are more than just
Blood and emotions
Inklings and notions
Atoms on oceans

One comment on “Did Hosea Love Gomer?

  1. Emily Williams says:

    Hey John,

    Just some thoughts on love I want to share regarding the scriptures and thoughts you provided. I agree that our culture touts love as merely a feeling, which as we can see is not Biblical and leads many people astray and into confusion. However, I also think the Christian church has done a disservice to love by making it more action than what God intended. By this I do not mean that we can give too much love in how we act. Rather, I think the Christian church has put too much emphasis on the action part of love to the detriment of the condition of the heart (which I think is related to the feeling of love).

    I don’t want to get too lengthy here, but suffice it to say that many of the verses you provided DO have things to do with feelings. They have everything to do with how we think of ourselves in comparison to others, what our motives are, and what should be going on in our hearts. If we ONLY do loving actions is that really love? I don’t think so. I think it’s the combination between the actions and the feelings that are what love truly is. Is this hard? You bet it is!, but isn’t a lot of what Jesus was teaching us about the motives and feelings of the heart in the NT hard? (ie. if you hate you have murdered?). And, should we not admit that sometimes it’s just easier to not work on what we know is wrong in our hearts, and just “do the right thing” and think we’re following God? Really, to have a right heart is much more difficult sometimes than doing the right thing.

    I was studying this just recently and I believe that we often overlook the fact that the majority of verses in the Bible talking about “doing” are connected with and preceded (or explained by) the condition of our hearts. Right actions come from a right heart, and if we force it the other way all we are doing is fooling ourselves into thinking we have it all right when in reality we are far from pleasing our God.

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