Refreshment in Refuge
by Gina Burgess
When was the last time you read Proverbs 7? It’s all about how a young man was enticed by a married woman because he lacked understanding. As I read it, I couldn’t help but think about Gomer and Hosea. It’s as if Solomon was prophesying Gomer’s actions as she cavorted with other men after she married Hosea. But then, we know that the story of Gomer and Hosea was God's way of physically illustrating a spiritual truth about Israel's spiritual welfare. It was also His promise that Israel would eventually be gathered back into His loving arms. But, oh, what a forlorn and scattered life she leads before His embrace. If you'd like to read my story about that you can go here. I’ve also written about this several times here, here, and here.
You are probably wondering why I’ve paid so much attention to it. In case you didn’t know. I divorced my first husband, and my second husband divorced me. These two divorces are great examples of what I mean when I say that divorce is not a sin, but what causes the divorce is sin.
I have heard it preached from the pulpit. I have experienced the prejudice first hand. I have seen the devastating disappointment incurred by the mistaken belief that divorce is a sin. It is not a sin. What caused the divorce is the sin. Yes, God hates divorce; and from the very beginning it was not ever a godly solution to human problems. However, God exposes the sin that is good cause for divorce in several books of the Bible. We find these passages in Ezra 10, Ezekiel 16, the entire book of Hosea, and in every other book of the prophets. God divorced Israel. If divorce is a sin then God sinned. Since God is holy to the nth degree, then sin has never touched Him. Godly divorce is necessary when adultery, fornication, child abuse are prevalent in an abusive marriage. Those heinous things cause divorce. Another cause of divorce is the mistaken idea that somehow love has dissipated out of the marriage, so where love goes, so goes the marriage.
My second husband’s excuse was just like that. “Ooops! I made a mistake in marrying you because I don’t love you as much as I love my daughter. Out you go!” Nothing biblical about it. Yet, my first husband had zero self-control and was extremely selfish. There was everything biblical about that divorce. I struggled for years with the decision to divorce. This is how I know that no person, whether a loving wife or a helpless baby, can change a person’s inclinations and lack of self-control. Only God Himself can change the hearts of humans.
The story of Gomer and Hosea goes back to Israel committing adultery with foreign gods, and seeking security from foreign nations rather than worshiping the one, true God and having faith in His omnipotence. But it is more than that. God pointed His finger at Israel and accused her of dastardly things:
Hosea 4:1a-2 There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
That is the poisoned honey that drips from the lips of the wicked. First Israel broke relationship with the one true God, and then they broke His commands He set in place for one another… all with the penalty of death when broken.
This broke the marriage contract Israel had with God, which is found in Deuteronomy. This adultery which broke the covenant wasn’t just a one-time fling either; it was a constant thing. Israel was different because she “paid her lovers” and was paid in return. We see this wicked woman described in Proverbs 5 and in Proverbs 7. Words of honey dripping from her lips, but full of faithlessness, infidelity—adultery. She has a perfumed bed, calls lust love, and bears children that her husband probably did not sire.
Faithless Israel paid the consequences of her sin with her “bill of divorcement” (Jeremiah 3). That publically declared her sin and guilt. Basically, Deuteronomy is the marriage contract, and Jeremiah is the book/bill of divorcement.
It seems that the story of Hosea and Gomer defies God’s express law for the high priest concerning marriage. Leviticus 21:14 A widow or a divorced woman or a defiled woman or a harlot—these he shall not marry; but he shall take a virgin of his own people as wife. And in Deuteronomy 24:1-4God declares that a man should not marry again a wife he has divorced after she has married another man and was divorced or widowed by him.
Why is it a good thing that God woos Israel back to Himself? First, we know that God scattered those ten tribes, and they never became a nation that had the same kind of covenant with a demonic god as she did with the one true God. Adultery, yes. Marriage covenant, no… at least until the end times when they covenant with the Antichrist (Daniel 9:27). Yet, God will save the remnant for Himself.
Now, consider Gomer (Israel) a soiled wife, being wooed back to her husband. She was taken to wife by Hosea from her life as a prostitute because the Children of Israel were acting like prostitutes. God has never taken marriage vows lightly. This is one of the most serious commands ever given by Him to any human. I believe the only more serious command was the one Jesus obeyed by going to the cross.
This is the saving grace of this story! While we were yet sinners, God loved us (Romans 5:8). While Gomer was wallowing in her harlotry, Hosea had mercy and gave her grace.
This is precisely what God desires for all His children: To have hearts of mercy and grace when our dearest beloved acts faithlessly in betrayal.
God never tested my forgiveness to my second husband. The only way I know that I met God at least halfway in forgiving him is that I do care about him not going to Hell. God tested and tried and tested my forgiveness to my first husband. When I thought I had truly forgiven him, I realized there was still a few burning coals of anger buried in my heart. Then God put him in my face when our granddaughter was born. I realized he was broken and in God’s heart. If God can forgive, why do we bear resentment and hold judgment over those who cut us so deeply? He forgave us, how can we do any less? This does not mean that we sweep our anger into a box, tape it shut, and try not to think about it. It does not mean that we say, “I’m okay with what you did to me.” That is not what God is saying here when He tells Hosea to take back his wife and to love her as He loves the Israelites.
In Deuteronomy 31:16-20 God shares with Moses that He knows Israel will be unfaithful and break covenant with the Him, and that they will lust after other gods and forsake the one, true LORD. Then He promises, “hiding I will hide My face.” That is a Hebrew nomenclature of a sweeping, continuing action. However, Isaiah tells us that God didn’t divorce Israel right away; He separated from her as a punishment to bring her back. He withdrew the blessings and rain didn’t fall among other things. But Israel continued to embrace other gods and Hosea tells us that this produced illegitimate children “children of whoredom” found in Hosea 2. Then in Jeremiah 3, we see the bill of divorcement where God hid His face from His people and declared they were not His people. The book of Jeremiah describes the unrepentant Israel and why the decree of divorcement was necessary. That word decree or bill can also be translated judgement.
Hosea tells us of how God will woo back His wife. Verse 14, He will “allure her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.” This story gives the Bride of Christ the example of love and forgiveness. Divorce between believers is not an option, yet there is stubbornness of will and divorce happens. It is not something that cannot be forgiven. It isn’t something that debilitates a Christian from doing his or her work in the LORD. Only he who is without sin may cast the first stone. Since we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, then no believer has a right to hold a grudge against another believer, nor to judge another believer because no one knows the whole story anyway. In order for us to keep the vertical relationship with God healthy and open, we are commanded to forgive. That isn’t saying forgiveness is supposed to happen instantly, but it must be an open road with no dead end. He who is forgiven much loves much. He who forgives loves God more than himself.
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She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.
If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews before the books hit the book store shelves, check out Gina's book reviews at Upon Reflection
Gina is a partner and COO of Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC that owns Authors Community and eBookChristian.com
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