We’re fascinated with love stories. Whether you get your fix through Korean soap operas or Hollywood rom-coms, Shakespeare or Emily Dickinson, we can’t help but be captivated by them. Perhaps it’s the drama that intrigues us, the hope which leads either to heartbreak or the ‘happily-ever-after’. Perhaps it’s that love stories reflect our longing for a love which is solid and sure.
Over the next month, we’re going to look at an extraordinary love story as told in the Book of Hosea. It tells the story of romance and desire, unfaithfulness and heartbreak, divorce and reconciliation. It’s the love story of God with his people.
The prophet Hosea ministers God’s word to the northern kingdom of Israel just before it falls to Assyria in 722BC. However, God calls Hosea to keep loving an unfaithful wife. What happens between Hosea and his wife is a pale reflection of what is happening between God and his people. God has loved them, and saved them, and provided for them, only for them to reject him and spurn his love.
Despite his wife’s adultery, Hosea is told to love her. ‘The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods…”’ (3:1). It’s a reminder of God’s persistent, faithful, and deep love for his people. His heart breaks for them and he cannot let them go.
Humans are unchanged in our nature. The Bible speaks of our common tendency to wander away from the God who created us and to spurn his love. We all give our heart to other things instead of God. Our rejection of God is personal. Hosea tells us that God is not a detached bystander, but a wounded husband who wants us back.
As we learn from Hosea, we’ll learn once more about what God does to bring us back. This persistent love of God foreshadows the self-giving love of Jesus who, ‘having loved his own who were in the world… loved them to the end’ (John 13:1).