If there had been a Jerusalem Post in 700 B.C. imagine the headline: “Prophet Marries Prostitute. Says God Told Him To.” What a scandal!
Even without a newspaper or social media broadcasting the news, it still must have been shocking when the word got around about what Hosea, a prophet of God, had done. Out of all the women he could have married, he married Gomer. Gomer sure wasn’t the type of person people thought would make a good prophet’s wife. The main thing we’re told about her is that she was “adulterous” (Hosea 1:2).
People were probably talking and wondering what Hosea was thinking. They didn’t expect it would go well, and it didn’t. In Hosea 3 it says, “The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. …’ Then I told her, ‘You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.’”
Now the crowd knew for sure there was something wrong with Hosea. They had questioned his sanity and what kind of man of God he was when he married Gomer. Then she continued to live the life of a prostitute and cheated on him and loved other men. Now Hosea, instead of wising up and getting out of this messed up situation, runs after Gomer. Before Gomer gives any indication of changing her ways, Hosea shows love to her, encourages her to change, and promises to be her faithful husband.
People probably thought this crazy stuff Hosea was doing must be offensive to God, but Hosea said it was actually God’s idea. The Lord told him to love Gomer to serve as a lesson in how God loves people. “Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods” (Hosea 3:1).
Could this story of Hosea really be true? Did God really tell a prophet to marry a prostitute? The Bible says it really happened. We have a difficult time believing the story of Hosea and Gomer is true because we have a difficult time appreciating the incredible nature of God’s grace and love. We’re guilty of spiritual adultery. We have loved other things more than we have loved God. We deserve judgment. It would make sense if God wanted nothing more to do with us. But He doesn’t do what the world would consider sensible. He still loves us. He still wants us. He pursues us, even when we run away from Him.
It is tempting to make the story of Hosea into a “deadly be” story: “Be like Hosea.” Yes, we should love like Hosea. We wish we were more like him, but the main point of the story is: we are like Gomer. And yet while we were spiritual prostitutes, Jesus loved us and went to the cross for us.
The story of Jesus’ love for us is even more shocking than the story of Hosea and Gomer. But we rejoice that, as wild and crazy as it is, it is totally true.