Right now we fight the good fight, and run the race laid out for us as a part of the church militant. Today we remember those who are in the church triumphant, right now, with the Lord at the marriage feast of the Lamb.
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, What do you look for in a spouse? What do you tell, train, teach your children to look for when they are thinking about someone to marry? Perhaps your first and foremost concern is their faith. Do they believe in Jesus? Are they willing to learn or at least respect your faith? What’s next? Someone who is kind, caring, loving, supportive, someone who is committed to making the marriage work. We all probably have some kind of list of what we are looking for in a spouse or what we’re looking for in a spouse for our children, but perhaps the most important thing to look for in a spouse is: faithfulness. I think it was James Dobson, the doctor on Christian marriage and family issues, who said, “Before marriage your eyes should be wide open and have closed thereafter.” In other words, be very careful about who you marry but after you’re married don’t be so nit-picky about the faults of your spouse.
Well, this morning we have before us something absolutely bizarre, but I pray that through our work together this morning it will become more clear. If you have a son or if you’re a man and aren’t married, I’m quite confident that a lady like Hosea’s wife would never even come close to your consideration as marriage material. But what we’re going to examine today is four things: 1. How God pictures His relationship with us like a marriage, 2. It’s a bad marriage, 3. How God restores our marriage, and 4. What do we learn.
First, God pictures our relationship with Him like a marriage. There are all kinds of pictures through the Bible that God uses to describe our relationship with Him. We saw a couple of them in our Gospel this morning. God is like a Shepherd and we are the sheep, God is like a housewife and we are like a coin, and there’s others, God is the King and we are the subjects, God is the Father and we are the children. But none of those pictures goes quite deep enough. A Shepherd cares about his sheep, but finally it’s just a human-animal relationship, it’s not that deep. The same goes for a housewife and coin. A king to subjects, is great because a King reminds us that God rules over us and fights our battles for us, but it’s not a very intimate relationship. Father and children is a close relationship but not quite intimate enough. So what does God do? He pictures our relationship with Him as a marriage: He is the groom, we are his bride.
God is saying that his relationship with us is to be so intensely personal, intimate, binding and lasting that you have to picture it like he’s the groom and you’re the bride. When you’re married your whole priority system has to change. Marriage makes your spouse your most important earthly relationship – above your parents, friends, children, hobbies, etc. For your marriage to work you need to make your spouse your highest priority second only to God Himself. Marriage is also intensely personal. You can hide things from your friends, coworkers, children, even yourself, but there are things that your spouse knows about you that you’ve even been able to hide from yourself. That’s how intimate a marriage relationship is. And marriage also gives you incredible confidence for life. For example, over our vacation I decided to try growing a beard, now if my wife tells me, “You look really good with it.” Then it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. However, if my wife told me, “It looks terrible.” I’d no longer have it and it wouldn’t matter if everyone else said it looked good. Your spouse has the power to give you incredible confidence for life. That’s the kind of relationship God wants to have with us: He wants to be the number 1 priority in our lives, a most intimate and personal relationship, and to give us confidence for life knowing that it’s only his opinion of us that matters.
But it’s a bad marriage. This is what God used Hosea and his life to illustrate. God told Hosea, “Go show your love to your wife again.” “Again.” What’s that referring to? To understand that we have to go back to the beginning of Hosea. In the beginning of the book we’re told that God told Hosea to marry a woman- but not just any woman- an adulterous woman. He is to marry this adulterous woman because, God says, the people of Israel are guilty of the worst form of adultery against me. Love this woman who is going to utterly break your heart because that’s how I love the Israelites. Consider the implications of marrying an adulterous woman, as soon as you take her to be your wife, she will leave you, cheat on you, love other men more than you, find her satisfaction with others, lack appreciation for you, and make you the biggest punchline in the whole town. In other words what God is telling Hosea is this, “Hosea, if you’re going to be my prophet, you’re going to have to understand what it feels like to be me when the people that I love are unfaithful to me and go after idols. You won’t understand what sin is until you understand this form of utter betrayal.” Wow! And so, Hosea marries a woman named Gomer. And he has some children with her one son, then a daughter, then another son whom he names, “Lo-Ammi.” Which means essentially, “not-mine.” His wife immediately becomes unfaithful, she moves in with another lover, she becomes a street-walker, a prostitute, and how bad does it get? Here we find out that she’s for sale!
So that means that either she’s become a slave and is up for sale or it’s possible that her “manager” has become disappointed with her for some reason and so he’s going to cut his losses and put her up for sale to the highest bidder.
Gomer did what we would say, “She was looking for love in all the wrong places.” She looked for love and fulfillment in adulterous relationships, but the more she did so, the more unsatisfied, unfulfilled, empty and broken she became. That’s what our marriage to God is like, it’s a bad marriage. And God is telling us, if you want to understand what it feels like when you put anything before me in life, it’s like watching the person you love the most put themselves in the arms of another lover. Some of you know exactly what that pain feels like, everyone here knows of someone who’s been through that. That’s what God says it feels like to him. The Israelites turned to Baal worship and idol feasts complete with the sacred raisin cakes, that was more important to them than God. Whenever you or I put something ahead of God in our lives, maybe it’s money or it’s a career or it’s your children or it’s a political cause or a dream of some sort we are cheating on our God. And what happens? What happens when we put something in our lives in the place reserved for God? What happens when we make something else than our marriage to God the number one priority, our most intimate relationship, and from which we look for confidence in life? It will always leave us disappointed and empty. You see, if you put money there- what happens when it disappears? If you put a person there, what happens when they let you down, what happens when they die? When we sin its to God like being betrayed by the person you love the most.
How does God restore our marriage? Hosea is to go show his love for his wife again. Even though he has a thousand plus reasons to divorce her, he’s to go get her back. The point here is not that there are never any reasons for divorce – there certainly are – but God is illustrating his love for us. So Gomer is being sold and it’s probably like an auction. She would have been stripped naked because her buyers need to know what their purchasing. How humiliating and disgraceful this would have been! She would have had her eyes closed probably. Then the bidding begins. 3 shekels, 4 shekels, 5 shekels, and then she hears the voice of her husband, “10 shekels.” “What?? What is he doing here? Why is he here? Why does he want me?” “15 shekels” “15 shekels and an homer and a lethak of barley.” And he would have gone up to his wayward wife put his cloak around her to cover up her nakedness and brought her home. And he said, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.” She will live with him, she won’t be intimate with anyone, not even her husband for a time, but then they will be together. The last part of the phrase is hard to translate, the NIV has “and I will behave the same way toward you.” But really all the Hebrew says is, “And I will be to you.” I will be yours. He paid an incredible price for her- not just financial, but emotional, and societal as well.
Hosea is in love with his wife, God is in love with us, Hosea’s wife is unfaithful to him, we’re unfaithful to God, Hosea pays a large price for his wife, what does God pay? We’re told in verses 4-5 that there’s going to be a time when the Israelites will be away, but then they will return and seek the Lord and David their king. But David has been dead for 300 years at this time. It can’t be David, but David’s great descendant- King Jesus. When did he buy us back? When did He enter the marketplace and pay a price for us, his wayward bride? He’s the true bridegroom, he paid the price by putting himself where we deserved to be, on a cross, where he paid, not shekels, but his lifeblood, where he suffered and died to buy us back from our slavery to sin. And not only that, but he also put his cloak – his cloak or righteousness on you and me to cover up our sinful nakedness.
So what do we learn? First, are you going through a terrible and difficult time in life? Imagine what Hosea went through. The pain, the heartbreak, the betrayal. But what was God doing? God was showing him what it feels like when His people turn their back on him. God was making Hosea into His prophet. Maybe that’s what God is doing for you, making you his prophet to speak into the lives of other people. Second, if Jesus has done all this for you, redeemed you, bought you back, in order to make you His bride forever, that means you have all the spousal love you need for eternity. You can stop searching for something more in life – in Jesus you have it all. In Jesus and his love for you, you have all the validation you need for life. Renew your vows with him. Remember the marriage vows? Will you love him, be faithful to him, cherish him in sickness and in health as long as you live? And finally, do you love the lost like Jesus does? We can’t love the lost until we understand that Gomer is a picture of you and me in our relationship to God. God doesn’t owe us anything. We are what we are purely by the grace of God. And if all we are is a gift of grace from God, we can love the lost, reach the lost, share God’s Word of salvation with any and with all- no matter where they’ve been or what they’ve done. Thank the Lord that He is your true bridegroom. Amen.