Scriptures: Hosea 1:2-2:1; Luke 11-1-13
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer, Amen.
I was tempted to take the easy way out this week and preach a sermon on the passage with the Lord’s Prayer, even if it isn’t the version we usually pray in worship each week. But as I got to reading and thinking about the passage from Hosea, as hard and challenging as it might seem, I felt we needed to hear something about this difficult passage.
Difficult, I think, because there you are, going along reading the Bible (you do read the Bible, don’t you?) – and you’re deciding what to read today: “Oh, I think I’ll read one of the minor prophets, how about whats-his-name? Jose? “Hose B?” no, no, that’s not it…Hosea, that’s it!” You flip it open and start reading: “The Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom…,” “What?!?” You think: did somebody cut and paste a Romance novel into this?…and that’s where we get stuck. But that is not where God is going with this story.
Some helpful background information: Biblical Society both in the time of the prophet Hosea and in the time of Jesus was somewhat based on an honor/shame culture. Hosea’s call from God would have been interpreted not about Hosea and his status, but because of his role as prophet, interpreted as God shaming Israel, a very serious issue indeed. Thinking about the Luke passage, the friend would get up, yes, but a very strong reason to do so would be so that his honor in the community would be upheld…all those around who would have heard the knocking on the door over and over would have known if he would respond (honorable) or if he didn’t (shameful) based on how long the knocking went on!
Commentator John White comes to our rescue when he tells us, “There is an ageless message that rings true from the prophet Hosea: God is always faithful, while human beings rarely are.” The passage is not about human relationships, however. It is about God’s relationship with Israel. How best we can perhaps understand it is with examples from more down-to-earth real life unhappy situations. By way of a very real and upsetting metaphor we are given the example of what it has been like for a loving, faithful God to be in love with a continually unfaithful people.
John writes, “That the relationship between Hosea and his wife was symbolic becomes clear in the second verse: “The Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.'” In this case, Hosea’s wife stands for so much more than sexual infidelity. It includes ways in which business practices were carried forth, the manner in which political decisions were made, and even belief (or lack thereof) of the people in the Lord God of Israel.” Another commentator, Thomas Mann says succinctly: “Israel is guilty of infidelity on three levels: sovereign/servant, husband/wife, parent/child…. Fundamentally, all involve unrequited love. While this may be obvious in the familial models, it is also true for the political, where the central commandment is “to love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Deut. 6:5). Here the primary meaning of love is allegiance, fidelity, and faithfulness.”
To further make the point that the life of Hosea and Gomer is a living metaphor for the Israelites as a whole, we have these three names, given by God to their children, designed to galvanize, or shock, the Israelites back into proper relationship with God.
Jezreel – “God sows,” or “God plants.” – which becomes a signal that the house of Israel’s king, Jehu, will come to an end since his line has become so corrupt with Jeroboam II that it basically mirrors the state of the house of the previous dynasty, when Jehu brought King Ahab and Queen Jezebel to the justice of the Almighty’s eternal hand in the time of Elisha.
The second child, a daughter, is born and God, in anger, commands Hosea to name her Lo-ruhamah, which means “not-loved,” or “not pitied.” This child’s name signifies God will no longer forgive a people rebellious for far too long.
The third child, a son, is born and God command him to be named Lo-ammi, which means, in the ultimate desolation of rejection from God, “You are not my people and I am not your God.”
But that is not the end of the story. In verses 1:10-2:1 God relents of divine rejection and anger and offers instead a sign of hope:
“Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God. 11The people of Judah and the people of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head; and they shall take possession of the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel. 21 Say to your brothers, Ammi [my people], and to your sisters, Ruhamah [my loved ones].”
Which brings us to our question for today: what practical application can we glean from this uncomfortable passage? Simply this: God does relent of anger, God does forgive, and when we find our selves in places where God seems so distant, so foreign, so far away, the simplest recognition on our part of our weaknesses, our wanderings from God is a willing, repentant spirit; and that, my friends, will bring God rushing back to us with the open arms of forgiveness, enveloping us once more into the fold God calls “my people, my loved ones.”
To me, that is Good News indeed – perhaps now I can see why the revised common lectionary pairs these two passages together: the difficult passage from Hosea, rife with potential side tracking, and the basic prayer Jesus teaches us from Luke:
When we do reach that point of simplest recognition of our weaknesses, our wanderings from God, and experience a truly contrite spirit of repentance, then the prayer Jesus taught makes perfect sense. “Teach us to pray,” say the disciples. So Jesus, acting from within his very human experience on earth, teaches us a very human prayer; the kind of prayer that can’t be faked. The only prerequisites are sufficient self-knowledge to recognize the depths of our need, and, knowing how hard it is to be human, we pray for help: “Give us,” we pray, recognizing our dependence; “Forgive us,” we pray, recognizing we have fallen short; “Lead us” and “Deliver us,” we pray, recognizing our lostness and vulnerability, in need of God’s sure strength.
The rest is even more simple: With all the right prerequisites in place, we may make bold to pray, “Ask and it will be given you, seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened for you.”
May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.
 White, John. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16).
 Mann, Thomas. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16).
Reflection questions and prayers provided from Feasting on the Word:
Questions for Reflection
It is difficult in our day to consider the analogy of Hosea and Gomer (Hos. 1:2–10). The figure of Gomer as adulterous prostitute offends our feminist sensibilities, and Hosea evokes pity more than admiration. Yet, as William Willimon points out, this scandalous story directs our attention to the God who went so far as to be crucified for us. “Only a passionate, unseemly God who is willing to risk scandal could possibly save a bunch of adulterers like us.” What does it mean to place ourselves in the role of Gomer? What does the person Hosea say about the character of God?
Household Prayer: Morning
Thank you, God of light, for waking me up this morning. May I live wholly for you this day; that whatever I say and do might help make a path for your coming reign. Open my eyes to your goodness and my heart to your children. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Household Prayer: Evening
Thank you, Lord, for the gift of this day, its challenges and its blessings, its burdens and its delights. Forgive my failures and misdeeds; refine my heart that I may greet the new day to live more faithfully for you. Amen.