gods-steadfast-loveThe little Old Testament book of Hosea doesn’t just tell us of God’s love for Israel; the prophet lived it out in a way that would be difficult, if not impossible for many. Hosea was instructed to find a wife, and not just any wife, he was to marry a prostitute, the basest of women. Hosea was to love with a God-like love a woman who perhaps would not reciprocate his affection. The prophet was to enter into a one-sided marital relationship. Jehovah wanted Hosea to love the wife he would choose with the same love that He had for Israel. This was to be about Hosea’s unconditional love for her.

Ready to fulfill God’s instruction, Hosea set out to find God’s choice for him. He settled on a woman named Gomer—not a name we hear a lot today. Oddly, it means “complete.” Much to Hosea’s surprise and chagrin, he fell deeply in love with this woman. They married and had three children together. But one day the ordinariness of being a wife and mother got the better of Gomer and she abandoned her family only to return to the life of prostitution. Like many men—and women—today who have been betrayed by a spouse, Hosea took up the reins of parenthood and raised the children alone, all the while desperately lonely for the wife who had abandoned him.

God allowed this for a time, but one day He instructed Hosea to go out and search for Gomer who, by then, had been abandoned by her lover and had sold herself into slavery. He searched all the back alleys and houses of ill-repute until he found his beloved wife—even though still an adulteress. How was it possible for Hosea to love Gomer that much—to love her desperately? We find the answer in Hosea 3:1, "Love her as the LORD loves." The account of Hosea and Gomer is a remarkable illustration of God’s great and gracious love, an outstanding biblical example of sacrificial love.

Hosea had finally found Gomer—dirty, unkempt, ill, and wretched, a mere shadow of her former self—yet he still loved her. He offered far more than she might have been worth on the auction block—"fifteen shekels of silver and thirteen bushels of barley" (see Hosea 3:2). I like to picture Hosea wrapping her in his cloak to protect her from prying eyes and then leading her home. Once there, he gave her specific instructions (verse 3): "You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man—so, too, will I be toward you."

"You shall stay with me many days; you shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man—so, too, will I be toward you."

—Hosea 3:3

Was it easy for Hosea to offer that kind of forgiveness to the one who had so betrayed him? Marriages are destroyed by far less than Hosea endured. But God had a lesson for Israel: He loved them with an everlasting love. It was a mirror of God’s constant love, which reaches far beyond our sinfulness all the way to the Cross where Love hung between heaven and earth. God loves you so much that He was willing to send His Son to die so that we could become part of His family...and that love never changes no matter what we do. I encourage you to rejoice in God's love for you today.