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Jerry Springer.

That’s probably the only other place you’re going to find a story as wild (and as trashy) as this one.

Here’s how the story goes:

God Almighty speaks to a fledgling prophet by the name of Hosea. God says unto him, “Boy oh boy, do I got an idea for you. Get this: I want you and your future bride to become a living parable. Sounds pretty great, right? I thought so too.

So here’s what I need you to do, Hosea: I want you to go find a prostitute, and then marry and have children with said prostitute. Well, technically, they won’t be YOUR children because that future wife or yours will conceive them with other men.

But no worries, Hosea. Believe it or not that’s actually IDEAL  because that will just help illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute by turning against me and worshiping other gods.”

I’m not sure what’s crazier in the story the fact that God is making this ask of Hosea, or the fact that Hosea actually follows God’s command.

Come on, Hosea, have a little self respect, right?

But that’s what Hosea does. He sets right out and finds Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, apparently a known prostituteand Gomer and Hosea go and get hitched. Gomer proceeds to have three kids – none of whom belong to Hosea – and she then runs of with another lover. Eventually. Somehow. Gomer winds up being sold into slavery.

It’s hard to believe this story is in our wholesome family Bibles, isn’t it!?!?!?

Unlike most bible stories but actually quite LIKE most episodes of Jerry Springer, there is no obvious hero in the story of Gomer and Hosea.

God comes out looking callous at best and cruel at worst for orchestrating this whole, messy, living parable thing.

Gomer comes out looking pretty… uh… SKANKY. We have no indication that she has changed at all.

Hosea comes out of this story looking like what the kids these days call a simp, a guy with no backbone, no self confidence, even less common sense, who just endlessly throws his romantic affections and money after a person who is quite obviously not interested in him at all.

Hosea 1:1-11, 3:1-5 (New Living Translation)

“Now listen to another story. A certain landowner planted a vineyard, built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country. At the time of the grape harvest, he sent his servants to collect his share of the crop. But the farmers grabbed his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. So the landowner sent a larger group of his servants to collect for him, but the results were the same.

“Finally, the owner sent his son, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’

“But when the tenant farmers saw his son coming, they said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Come on, let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’ So they grabbed him, dragged him out of the vineyard, and murdered him.

“When the owner of the vineyard returns,” Jesus asked, “what do you think he will do to those farmers?”

The religious leaders replied, “He will put the wicked men to a horrible death and lease the vineyard to others who will give him his share of the crop after each harvest.”

Then Jesus asked them, “Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures?

‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has now become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing,
    and it is wonderful to see.’

I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit. Anyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on.”

When the leading priests and Pharisees heard this parable, they realized he was telling the story against them—they were the wicked farmers. They wanted to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowds, who considered Jesus to be a prophet.

Then the Lord said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.”

So I bought her back for fifteen pieces of silver and five bushels of barley and a measure of wine. Then I said to her, “You must live in my house for many days and stop your prostitution. During this time, you will not have sexual relations with anyone, not even with me.”

This shows that Israel will go a long time without a king or prince, and without sacrifices, sacred pillars, priests, or even idols! But afterward the people will return and devote themselves to the Lord their God and to David’s descendant, their king.In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the Lord and of his goodness.

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But here’s the thing about Gomer and Hosea: the LESS you think of them as people the more powerful the parable they were living out actually becomes.

What do I mean by that?

I mean that the whole point of God having Gomer and Hosea get together was to illustrate that no matter how faithless God’s people are God still loves them and will stop at nothing to get them back.

So as much hate and disgust and disdain as you want heap on Gomer that’s fine, go for it.

But you need to remember that

a) in the parable Gomer represents US so every bit of condemnation we call down on her we are actually calling down on ourselves

and b) the more we dislike her, the more we think that Hosea should kick her to the curb for her trifling ways, the more we understand how extraordinary a thing it is that God stays in relationship with us despite the thousand and one ways we have turning away from that pure gift of love and towards other things for our fulfillment.

And you can go ahead and think of Hosea as being as sniveling and pathetic as you want. But the more simp-y you find him to be, the more you understand the lengths God is willing to go to in order to make us know we are loved. The more you understand that there is nothing – not dignity, not self respect – there is nothing that will stand in the way of God’s loving us.

The LESS we think of Gomer and Hosea the BETTER we actually understand God’s love.

But before we judge Gomer and Hosea too harshly, we really should give thanks that the love of God works through lives of trashy, messy, dysfunctional people.

People just like you and me.