Two weeks ago, I introduced the topic for this spring’s Gospel Project for Adults and Students. I’ve been hearing from pastors who are leading their congregations through the “Atonement Thread” (in the months of March-May), which helps people put the Bible together to see how the theme of atonement runs from Genesis to Revelation.
For the next several Thursdays, I’ve invited some friends to contribute to a blog series that looks at the beauty of the atonement from different perspectives. Last week, we heard from Brandon Smith, who wrote about the mysterious beauty of penal substitution. This week, Nancy Guthrie points us to the story of Hosea and Gomer to help us understand the beauty of redemption.
Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at conferences around the country and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Covenant Theological Seminary. She and her husband, David, are the co-hosts of the GriefShare video series used in more than 8,500 churches nationwide and they also host Respite Retreats for couples who have experienced the death of a child. Guthrie is the author of numerous books including Holding on to Hope and Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow, and is currently working on the five-book Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament Bible study series.
Gomer had been tenderly loved by her husband, but she refused to let herself be satisfied by him. Instead, she gave herself to all kinds of other lovers. Who knows how long she’d been gone when her husband, the prophet Hosea, heard the Lord say to him, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods” (Hos.3:1).
Imagine, if you can, that you are Hosea’s brother or sister. You’ve seen what has gone on over the course of years. You told Hosea not to marry Gomer in the first place, but he didn’t listen. You’ve helped with the kids and heard him weeping in his room after running into Gomer around town in the embrace of yet another man. You’ve watched Hosea grow old alone while he continues to long for her to come home. And you’ve given him a piece of your mind more than once, telling him how she has made a fool of him. And then he tells you: “Gomer’s latest lover has tired of her. He sees her simply as an aging prostitute, and he’s willing to sell her back to me. So I’m headed down there to buy her back. I have only fifteen shekels in cash, so I’m taking some barley to make up the rest, and then I’ll bring her home, and we’ll start over.”
This is too much! How many times does she have to walk out before he finally has enough of her? She doesn’t deserve this kindness! She’ll probably take advantage of him again!
Common sense says, “Enough!” But this is not common sense speaking; it is redeeming grace. He loves her and he wants her back. He records, “So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley” (Hos. 3:2).
“So I bought her.” Do those words stir anything inside you? She belonged to Hosea. Long ago he chose her and bound himself to her. She was the one who had turned her back on his love and betrayed that love again and again.
Through the prophet Hosea’s love toward Gomer, God is helping us to see that his covenant love toward us is not based on our behavior but on His promise. Hosea did not commit himself to Gomer based on her past behavior or future potential but on his promise. And, my friend, God did not chose you and bind himself by covenant to you based on your past behavior or your future potential, but on His promise. This promise, a covenant commitment to love an unfaithful wife, comes with a cost.
For Hosea the cost was the price of a common slave. But for God, the cost was the life of his own Son.
Paul writes, “For you were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20). And Peter expresses the same costly redemption when he writes, “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19).
Can you see that this is what the redeeming love of God looks like—buying you back from the slave market?
God has loved you. When you were not even looking for Him, He chose you and determined to make you His own. He wooed you to himself with gospel promises of mercy instead of punishment, belonging instead of estrangement. He loved you by redeeming you from your enslavement to all lesser lovers, and He is loving you even now as He cuts away from your character every lingering tether to your old way of life.
Adapted from The Word of the Lord: Seeing Jesus in the Prophets by Nancy Guthrie to be released by Crossway in May, 2014