Summary: James Montgomery Boice calls the enacted parable of Hosea and Gomer "the second greatest story in the Bible," a depiction of God's embracing, pardoning grace. In it we see that We are Gomer.
We enact a parable of grace every time we observe the Lord's Supper. Another living parable was dramatized by Hosea the prophet. He was told by God to marry a wayward women who would prove to be unfaithful. He did so, to depict God's grace. It was not unusual for God to ask His prophets to do something as a visual lesson...however, this had to be the most unusual command ever issued in the Bible. Hosea is called to love this adulterous woman in the same way God loves His wandering, unfaithful people. Israel had turned to other gods, an unthinkable betrayal. Yet God forgives what He cannot excuse. James Boice calls this “The second greatest story in the Bible,” next to the story of our Savior--because they both point to God's pardoning grace. As we read this story, we discover something: We are Gomer.
The idea of marrying an impure woman was hardly the match Hosea's parents envisioned for their son. This was not the kind of wife they were praying for. Normally it would be an arranged marriage; but as it turned out, they had no say in the matter. Yet this was what God told Hosea to do. The prophet could have easily--with grounds--divorced his wife; he could have ended the marriage and walked away, just as God so easily could justify discarding us. But God would not allow Hosea this easy way out. Hosea was told to stay and work through the pain of rejection and betrayal. In the same way, God doesn't walk away from us...because of His great love love for us.
Did Gomer love her husband? It is unclear what she felt for Hosea. What is clear is that her heart was not entirely given to him. Perhaps she married for security, but she can't break away from old habits. Her definition of marriage and of fidelity was weak. She wasn't committed to the marriage. I've known couples whose attitude was “Till divorce do we part.” We can only imagine the frustration and heartbreak of Hosea.
Marriage is a biblical, binding, permanent covenant, which Gomer casually broke to her husband's grief. Hosea's unfortunate marriage must have given him insight into other troubled marriages, but especially into his country-men's lack of commitment to keeping their covenant with God...and how God must feel when we forsake Him.
Gomer gives birth to three children (1:4-8), born out of her unfaithfulness to her marriage vows. They demonstrate the consequences of infidelity. Hosea is not their biological father. They are children of promiscuity. We might say they were illegitimate, but there are no illegitimate children; only illegitimate parents. They are given names that point to what's wrong with the nation of Israel...
The first-born son is named Jezreel, after a massacre of innocent people for political reasons, recorded in the book of II Kings 9-10. The boy is a walking reminder that God has not forgotten. The second child, a daughter, is named Lo-Ruhamah, which is translated, “no compassion, no pity.” Her name is a warning of coming wrath upon faithless Israel. The third child is a boy, Lo-Ammi. His name means “Not my people.” When we live like orphans, when we fail to live as children of God, there will be consequences...intended to bring us back to God, to repentance and restoration.
We see throughout the Hebrew Scriptures God's repeated attempts at reconciliation with His people, who continue to ignore His love. Yet God is committed to them; they are the apple of His eye. God's love is unconditional, sacrificial, and compassionate. He may depart for a time, and He may allow us to walk away from Him, but He does not entirely abandon His people.
Gomer deserted her husband. As with so many people, freedom became bondage. She incurred a debt that resulted in indentured servitude to pay it off, which was a temporary form of slavery. Hosea buys her back, 3:2. He pays the price of redemption, and returns her to their home. We too are taken captive, by our sin. We are enslaved by wrongdoing, yet our bondage is atoned for--paid by the sacrifice of Christ. We may not see ourselves as bad--certainly not as bad as Gomer--yet we too have broken God's laws and have damaged our relationship with Him. Let's not compare ourselves to others, but to God's righteous standard.
Israel had delved into pagan practices. Some scholars think that Gomer may have become a temple prostitute serving the priests of Baal. Verse 4 makes reference to unholy sacrifices, ephods, idols and sacred stones. In the news, the Mormon church just released photos of the so-called “seer stones” used by Joseph Smith to “translate” the Book of Mormon. This is nothing but divination, soothsaying--a pagan, occult practice. Israel was attempting to incorporate heathen elements into their worship. What they ended up doing was akin to bowing before a golden calf.