Holy Fools: Hosea

Holy Fools: Hosea

Holy Fools: Hosea.

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd.” (Flannery O’Connor).

If the biblical world was a classroom, God’s prophets were the visual aids. As the Lord’s mouthpieces, they were often called upon to be symbols of His messages. Since they were instructed to be dramatic illustrations of the word of the Lord, the people not only heard the word, they literally saw the word. So prophets were often asked to make spectacles of themselves. Sometimes they went from being mouthpieces to megaphones in their actions. They were held up for ridicule, mockery and rejection. Because prophets were obedient to a fairly unpredictable God, they were often dismissed as cranks and eccentrics and not taken seriously. Prophets were often instructed to be living object lessons, so they had to learn how to swallow their pride and embrace public humiliation. Sometimes prophets did things that should be glossed over in Sunday School if not totally ignored. At times we have to wince when we read of a prophet’s antics, and we want to file it under “Do not try this at home.” We can often take a light-hearted approach to their street theater. In such cases we can take to heart G. K. Chesterton’s words, “He who has the Faith has the fun.” But other times their performance art is not mere comic relief. It is difficult and painful and definitely not fun. All this translates into God’s biblical prophets being spiritual live wires, engaging personalities, and real characters. The prophets may have struggled at times with accepting God’s instructions. But in the end they all settled into being fools for God.

Hosea. Not much is known about the background of the prophet Hosea, except that God chose him for a difficult and seemingly foolish task. God commanded Hosea to be a living parable. Hosea has been called by some a prophet of love. But the parable was not primarily about human love. Hosea was a parable about God’s love and mercy. Unfortunately, God chose a rather unprecedented way to live that parable out. The Lord instructed Hosea to marry a prostitute, just your average street-corner whore. Not only that, but God wanted to see children from their union, and He wanted Hosea to remain faithful to her despite her further sexual adventures. How’s that for an assignment from a holy Lord? Could there be anything more foolish to the public eye than marrying a prostitute, raising a family, and remaining faithful to her? Ever the obedient servant, that’s just what Hosea did. Gomer the prostitute, unsurprisingly, was unfaithful to Hosea, but as instructed, Hosea remained faithful to Gomer. This was indeed a difficult object lesson to act out in reality. Imagine the shame and humiliation. Marrying a common whore was a definitely a fool’s errand.

But what was God’s point in this very visual aid? Why did God put Hosea through this strange marriage? God wanted to teach the Israelites a very important lesson. The Lord wanted Hosea’s union with Gomer to provide a graphic picture of the relationship between the Lord and His people Israel. The people are unfaithful to me, says the Lord. They are prostituting themselves after other gods. As the Message puts it, “This whole country has become a whorehouse!” (1:2). My chosen people have violated our covenant, our sacred marriage vows. They are uniting themselves with other gods. And yet, and yet. I will pursue my people in faithfulness, because I love them anyway. I will be faithful when my people are at their worst. Hosea is a picture of how I love my people, says the Lord. Hosea forgave Gomer even after she slept with other men after their marriage. And that is a picture of how I will forgive my chosen people even after their wayward unfaithfulness. I will take them back into my love.

The story continues. Gomer was sold into sexual slavery, and Hosea in his faithfulness decided to redeem her, to buy her out of that slavery and have her return into his house. We don’t know Gomer’s response to Hosea’s amazing patience and forgiveness. We do know that Hosea goes on in his prophetic role to announce the Lord’s judgment on Israel and Judah. But the final chapter is hopeful for those who repent of their unfaithfulness. “Yahweh says, ‘Then I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever.” (14:4). Hosea was an obedient fool for love. It seems that God is playing the holy fool for love for our sake as well.

Are there other gods we lust after instead of keeping our vows with out spiritual spouse, the Lord? Other gods like, Power and influence? Money and things? Ego and self? Success and Fame? Praise be to God, who is faithful to us even when we, like Gomer, are unfaithful to Him. Great is His faithfulness.

Marvin Winans – Great Is Thy Faithfulness / Great Is Your Mercy [Medley] – YouTube