Note: This post provides the backdrop for #28 in the list of 66 faith-filled Bible verses my granddaughter and I are memorizing together. We started at Genesis 1:1, and we’re working our way through the whole Bible, one verse from each book.
And he did.
Hosea married a cheater.
Not the kind who didn’t keep her eyes on her own paper, either.
At the beginning of Hosea’s career as a prophet, he married a woman who had an unappealing name and a reputation that was even worse.
Described as adulterous, promiscuous, unfaithful and disgraceful, Gomer was the kind of woman who would have been the target of sensational talk shows and sleazy tabloids had they been around back then.
No self-respecting Jewish man in his right mind would ever even once think of putting “a ring on it.”
Basically, there was only one thing that could prompt a proposal of marriage by Hosea to Gomer, daughter of Diblaim. Only one reason would be reason enough.
God told him to.
What in the world?
Of the verses we’ve memorized so far, because of the nature of the story, this one may be the hardest to discuss with my granddaughter.
If she were four years old, we would probably not discuss Hosea’s backstory at all. But Kynzie is 9, and unfortunately, she and her peers know their way around the lingo of relationships today.
She knows what a cheater is and she knows what a cheater does.
I wish she didn’t. But she does, and I suppose it might make grasping the heart of this verse a little easier.
What’s really important for her to know is that each of us is capable of cheating on God …
In living out the most important covenant relationship of our existence, we can stray, drift, look around and fall out of love, just like people who have stood at the altar and said their wedding vows.
… and that even if she does, he will draw her back into his arms of redeeming love.
It’s a heavy subject, adultery. No one really wants to say the word, even, so we call it cheating. That sounds a little less Biblical, a little easier to discuss, and perhaps a whole lot less deserving of discipline.
So, how am I going to talk about it with my granddaughter when we memorize this verse together?
Here’s my plan.
Kynzie, I want to tell you about a man in the Bible named Hosea.
Have you ever known anyone by that name? Me, either.
Well, Hosea was a man who loved God and he was a prophet.
You know how you’ve seen people on the news on TV? They tell what’s happening with the weather, or they tell you what’s happening in the world, and sometimes they help warn you if danger could be close by.
Well, Hosea was one of the men who did that for the people of God. When they all got together in groups, Hosea was the guy who brought the news directly from God.
So, during this time in the Bible, the people had gotten far away from God in their thoughts and in their actions.
They had gotten so far away that they never even talked about God anymore.
They didn’t acknowledge his presence or his existence, and they drifted so far away that they worshiped other gods.
Remember when we memorized Exodus 34:14? “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
Well, God still meant that. He was jealous for his people. He was like a husband who was not going to hand over his wife to another man. He wanted them to stop worshiping other gods (who could do nothing for them) and return to Him (because he loved them).
So, God did something very interesting.
He told Hosea, the news guy, to marry a woman who was already known as a cheater.
Do you know what being a cheater means?
(At this point, she’ll probably say something like: Grams! Yes, I know, don’t you??)
Well, the Bible has a stronger word for cheating. In the Bible, it’s called “adultery,” and there was a woman named Gomer who was known as an adulteress. That means she had relationships with other women’s husbands or men she wasn’t married to or while she was married, she had relationships with other men, and everyone knew about it. If she was alive today, she would be known as a big-time cheater. And she was the one God told Hosea to marry!
Why do you think God would do something like tell his prophet to marry an adulterous woman?
That just doesn’t seem right, does it?
(I get a huge thrill out of hearing Kynzie voice her thoughts, and I can’t wait to hear her answer to these questions.)
Well, here’s why.
The message Hosea was about to deliver to the people was going to be hard for them to hear.
But, Hosea couldn’t be mean when he delivered God’s message.
You know how when your mom gets angry when you won’t do what she tells you to do, and she says you’re about to get in trouble if you don’t straighten up?
If she didn’t love you, those would just be mean words, but since she loves you, your ears hear the words and you heart wants to change so you can please her.
In order for him to not just spout out mean words that the people were in t-r-o-u-b-l-e with God, Hosea had to have a certain love for the people.
Because Hosea was married to a bad woman, and because he loved her as a husband loves a wife, he understood, very personally and very compassionately, what God was saying.
Hosea lovingly told his wife that she could no longer be a cheater (for the good of their relationship) and Hosea told the people that they had to quit cheating on God (or God was going to discipline them).
What do you think happens next? Did the people apologize to God? Did they cry and say I’m sorry to him and promise to return to worshiping only him?
Nope, they sure didn’t.
It was a dumb thing to do, but the people decided to only obey God half-way.
They talked among themselves and decided to speak about God, but not to him.
They would act better, they agreed, but they wouldn’t be better. They would say things just to please God, but they had no plans of changing their hearts.
They planned on continuing to cheat on God.
How do you think that made God feel?
Our memory verse is God talking telling the people just that. He makes sure they know how little he wants their words and empty:
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” – Hosea 6:6
God wants the people to know that they can’t just do a few things that please him without really loving him and worshiping him alone.
That would be like you telling your mom, ok, I’ll clean out the dishwasher like you want me to, but I don’t love you.
I’ll pick up my room like you asked, but as soon as I’m finished, I’m going to forget all about you.
I’m going over to my friend’s house, and I’m going to pretend you’re not my mom.
Eeeek! That would be so sad, wouldn’t it?
As we keep going, Sweetness, we’ll continue to see that the people of God sometimes return to worship him alone, and other times, they drift away again.
But God never, ever, ever lets them go.
He’s disappointed. He tries to get them to understand. He lovingly disciplines them, like your mom disciplines you, but no matter how many times they cheat him out of what he deserves, God’s love remains to redeem them.
Well, the story ends with Hosea still married to Gomer and with God still telling his people to repent.
There will be more news-guys with more messages for God’s people.
In fact, you and I will memorize 11 more verses from the prophets who delivered God’s words to his people.
By the time we finish the Old Testament and start at the book of Matthew, we’ll read that God sends Jesus to die on the cross, and we’ll understand that God will do anything to stay in relationship with his people, so he gave his only begotten Son – to be the ultimate prophet, with the ultimate good news.
And you know what happens then, Kynzie?
Jesus. Changes. Everything.
Let’s keep memorizing, love-of-my-life granddaughter, verse by verse, the greatest story ever told. It only gets better from here.
Encouraging intentional adventure as we love the One who never gives up on his children,
PS: Memorization tips:
- Light a fire in the fireplace or in an outside fire pit and talk about the sacrifices once made by the Hebrews. Use it as a visual to discuss that burnt offerings are no longer necessary because of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.
- Let your grandchild create a tune to go with the words. Songs are easier to memorize.
- Draw a heart on the left side of a large sheet of paper, and a cross on the right. Let them color the memory verse in the middle or you write it using a dot-to-dot technique for them to connect.
PSS: Francine Rivers’ book, Redeeming Love, is a fictional portrayal of Hosea and Gomer’s story. If you haven’t read it, I think you’ll love it, and if you have teenage granddaughters, so will they.