Is there any concept as misunderstood as “love”? In romantic movies, love is shown as that euphoric feeling when someone catches our eye. In the news, we hear how love drives both heroic feats and horrific acts of revenge. On social media, the click of a heart demonstrates momentary appreciation.
We all long for love and pursue it. Yet—when love goes wrong— few things cause us more pain. Each of us brings our own complex understanding of love to our reading of God’s Word. So when we read that God loves us and that His greatest commandment is for us to love Him and others, it’s no wonder we’re confused. What does God’s love look like? And how do we foster anything similar in our frail human hearts?
The book of Hosea cuts through this confusion with a powerful and provocative portrayal. When we meet Hosea, we immediately discover that the prophet’s first assignment was not to preach a message, but to provide a living metaphor. God told him to marry a prostitute.
Interpreters have offered a variety of explanations for this shocking directive, perhaps trying to make it more palatable to modern readers. Some suggest it was just a vision or that Gomer’s “prostitution” was only spiritual. Others assert that her infidelity happened after they wed. However, a literal interpretation, taking into consideration the record, makes the most sense. When Hosea and Gomer first married, Jeroboam II was king in Israel. He had expanded the nation’s borders. His army was strong. Wealthy Israelites were prospering. But spiritually, God’s people had strayed from their first love. They had committed adultery by their involvement with the fertility worship of Baal, and their destruction was coming. It was in this setting that Hosea and Gomer’s story begins.
>> As we begin this book study, ask God to reveal the condition of your own heart. May He show us any ways in which our love is divided.
May You be Lord of our hearts, O God. Strengthen us when we are tempted to chase lesser things and draw us back when we turn our eyes from You. We do not want to grieve You.