Scorning the Shame: Hosea

Scorning the Shame: Hosea

Scorning the Shame: Hosea. 

Psychiatrist and author Dr. Curt Thompson has a very helpful section in his outstanding book called The Soul of Shame. In this one section he discusses Hebrews 12:2, where its writer says that Christ “endured the cross, despising the shame.” Dr. Thompson discusses how Jesus laid out a pattern for us on how to deal with shame. Translations of the word ‘despise’ also use words like scorn and disregard. Jesus scorned the shame associated with the cross. He faced His shame head on, He was aware of its presence and didn’t pretend it wasn’t there. He acknowledged the shame and turned away, as if He didn’t think anything of it. He fearlessly confronted His shame while not being overrun by it. He turned attention away from the shame after addressing its reality, and turned towards His Father and what He was being asked to do. In His vulnerability, He scorned shame, He faced it down and overcame it by rejecting it, because of the love and acceptance He felt from the Father. Jesus disregarded the shame and pushed it into the margins in terms of its importance.

The book of Hosea is the first of the Hebrew Bible’s minor prophets… minor in the sense of fewer words and thus shorter, not minor in the sense of being less significant. Hosea had the unique call by God to become a public spectacle, full of shame and ridicule, and Hosea scorned that shame to become a faithful prophet and biblical light to the world in his faithfulness.

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, what turned out to be a gospel lesson in love. 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. “And it shall be, in that day,’ says the Lord, ‘that you will call me, my husband, and no longer call me, my master… I will betroth you to me forever. Yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.” (2:16,19,20).

Hosea’s call to repentance in ch. 6 is poignant and points to our life in Christ. “Come, and let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up… Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord, His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth… For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (6:1,3,6). Jesus repeated these words about mercy more than once as He underlined the importance of those words in Hosea. (Matt. 9:13, 12:7) .

Yahweh continues to agonize over His chosen people, and seems to come to a decision to be faithful despite their unfaithfulness: “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? My heart churns within me; my sympathy is stirred. I will not execute the fierceness of my anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim. For I am God, and not man, the Holy One in your midst.” (11:8-9).

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. What a picture of the gospel of Redemption. 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… Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them.” (14:4,9). Hosea was an obedient fool for love. It seems that God is playing the holy fool for love for our sake as well. Jesus on the Cross, The holy fool of love to redeem our very souls.