Summary: Does love sustain our commitment or should commitment sustain our love? The story of Gomer and Hosea is a spiritual Valentine from God to us! Love is a promise that ENDURES, PROCURES, and SECURES. Powerpoint at website.
Love: Passion or Promise?
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In our nation, a divorce is granted every 26 seconds. Slightly more than half of all marriages, and nearly 60% of all remarriages end in divorce. Divorces are granted for all kinds of reasons, but the most common rationalization for why marriages end is, “We just don’t love each other as we once did.” As a society, we have come to believe that when the romantic feelings of love have cooled, the relationship is no longer valid.
Author Thornton Wilder gives us a different perspective. He writes:
“I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married, and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them – it was that promise.” (Quoted in Grow Up! How Taking Responsibility Can Make You a Happy Adult, published by Golden Books.)
Wilder understood that relationships are built upon a promise, not a passion. Should the passion die, relationships can continue because of the promise. In other words: it’s not your love that sustains your commitment, it’s your commitment that sustains your love.
That is what Hosea is all about. When we pick up the story in chapter three, Gomer has hit bottom. She has bigger problems than just a goofy name [goooolleee!] She has been transported from the “hip” world of adultery into the living hell of prostitution. She is swapped on the open market of the sex trade like a piece of common stock. Hosea has every legal and moral right to divorce her, and, under God’s law, to have her killed. But Hosea is not about law. In love, Hosea does the unthinkable. Following God’s instructions, he goes to the slave market, purchases this woman with whom he exchanged wedding vows, takes her home, and says to her, “I will be for thee.” (Verse 3)
I am certain that Hosea didn’t “feel” much affection for Gomer at that moment. How could he? She had wrecked his home and publicly shamed and humiliated him. Yet, in obedience to the Lord he was able to “love” her “yet.” (Verse 1)
What we learn from this is that love is not about passion, but about a promise. It is not something we feel, but something we do no matter how we feel. It is a commitment that must endure the inconsistency of human emotions. It must withstand insensitivity, neglect, and betrayal. It must weather changes in personality, behavior, and physical attraction. That kind of love can last a lifetime.
I. Love is a Promise that Endures – Verse 1
A. The timing of God’s command to Hosea
The word “Then” reminds us that this took place after Hosea had taken the following steps (see 2:1-13)
He had confronted Gomer with her infidelity
He had issued an ultimatum – give up her affairs or get out
He had backed up the ultimatum by letting her go and cutting off his financial and emotional support. (See 2:8-12)
It is important to remember that Hosea didn’t take these steps in anger, or as an act of reprisal. It was his loving, confident response to a serious problem in his relationship. Hosea didn’t try to hang on to Gomer by overlooking her affairs, manipulating her with guilt, or making empty threats. He simply said to her, “If you want to stay, I want you to stay – but with the understanding that you take whatever steps are necessary to end these affairs. If you want to go, you may go, but things cannot continue as they are. I want you to know that I’m not giving up on you, but I am willing to give you up if that is what you want.”
The verses that follow clearly indicate that Hosea didn’t take the steps of restoration until Gomer had reached the point of brokenness.
It is probable that many months, and possibly years, passed between Hosea chapters 2 and 3.
Like the boy in the parable of the prodigal son, Gomer had to reach the end of the road before she would see the value in returning home.
B. The terms of God’s command to Hosea
Although I believe that Gomer was inwardly broken, outwardly her condition was the same. “yet an adulteress” [v. 1]
I think it safe to conclude that Gomer no longer enjoyed her present condition – a common prostitute sold to anyone willing to pay the price of a slave.
But neither had she attempted to return to Hosea. I think there are at least two possible reasons for this: