The Prodigal Bride
by Joseph Franks
Hosea is the story of a good man’s love for his prodigal wife. More than that, it is the story of a good God’s love for his prodigal bride. So for those of us who have wandered from God, been spiritually unfaithful, sinned grievously, fallen farther than we ever imagined, and find ourselves utterly miserable, Hosea is good news for us. For those who are righteous, Hosea has nothing to offer.
The story begins as follows:
The word of the Lord that came to Hosea … “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer …
Hosea obeyed God and took Gomer to be his wedded wife. In the course of time they gave birth to three sons. However, somewhere along the way, Gomer proved to be an unfaithful bride. She broke her vows. She crushed Hosea’s heart. Over and over again she played the part of the town whore. Finally, Hosea had enough and made the following address to his three sons:
Plead with your mother, plead— for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband— that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts; lest I strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and make her like a parched land, and kill her with thirst. Upon her children also I will have no mercy, because they are children of whoredom. For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’ Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’ And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal. Therefore I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season, and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness. Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall rescue her out of my hand. And I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts. And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees, of which she said, ‘These are my wages, which my lovers have given me.’ I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall devour them. And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the Lord.
Sadly, Gomer had played the part of the prodigal bride, and she was about to reap that which she had sown. One cannot play with fire without being burned. One who sips vinegar is left with a sour tasted in his mouth. So it is true with sin, and the consequences of Gomer’s sin were brutal.
However, good news was around the corner. Hosea was the good husband who would shower grace on his wayward spouse. Listen to the Gospel:
Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord. “And in that day I will answer, declares the Lord, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’ ” And the Lord said to me, “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 and love cakes of raisins.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.
The grace of Hosea towards Gomer was seen in his pursuing and alluring. The godly groom brought the prodigal bride away from her place of sin. He spoke tender words of mercy to her. Additionally, he gave her gracious gifts — blessings that had not been earned or deserved. He restored hope when all seemed lost, and made her feel young and pure again. She would rejoice in youthful vigor as she once did in years gone by. Hosea loved his beloved by leading her in a marriage renewal ceremony. Then he went to work on her heart. He would assist her in removing her lust for sin. He would assist her in leaving behind the painful memory of her former transgressions.
However, all this love from Hosea was not without a cost. The story continues in chapter three:
And the Lord said to me, “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 and love cakes of raisins.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”
Gomer’s sin had taken her to depths she never imagined possible. Sin does take one “farther than one wants to go, charge one more than one wants to pay, and keeps one longer than one wants to stay.”* Gomer was a used and abused woman who was being sold at auction. Hosea had to humble himself, attend the auction, bid and purchase his wife who belonged to another. This he did, and then with great love and seriousness, he brought his prodigal bride home to commune with him again.
So, where do we find ourselves in this story?
First, we are the prodigal bride. We are the ones who have been created in God’s own image. We are the ones who have been made prime ministers of his planet. We have been greatly blessed by God, and we have responded by being unfaithful and whorish before him. We have pursued certain sinful pleasures, and when they have failed to satisfy we have graduated to other transgressions. At any time, we could return to our Lord and Maker, but we would rather delight in sin than submit to our good God. We are like fools returning to the bottle. We are like dogs sitting in vomit. We are like Lot in the cave, Gomer at the auction block, and the prodigal son in the pig pen. Satan and sin are hard taskmasters, and we find ourselves addicted to sin and without hope. The only thing left for us is death, and then the real hell begins. Friends, do we see our depravity?
However, we have a good God who determines to shower mercy and grace upon his bride. He could excommunicate us from his family. He could divorce us. Such actions would be justified based upon our devilish conduct. Yet, he takes the initiative and loves us long before we love him in return. But this is not without a cost. Hosea humbled himself and purchased his bride with silver and barley. God humbled himself and purchased his bride with the blood of Jesus Christ. Friends, do we see the love of God?
Therefore, how should we respond?
It is time to pray. Let us confess our transgressions, plead the mercy of God based upon the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Let us thank him for his benefits; we should raise, adore and enjoy communion with him. Sing him a song, and feel free to ask your Heavenly Father and Lover for that which you desire. He has given you himself; he will give you anything you ask that is good for you and in accordance with his glory and will. Be honest and open in your prayers, for he has seen you at your worst, and still he cares for you. Talk intimately, now, with your good and gracious groom.
It is time to be holy. His love cannot be repaid, but it can be responded to properly. Certainly, watch your actions. It is not appropriate for us to respond as Christian whores. However, even more than that, watch your heart. God is not satisfied with us merely being chaste in deed while lusting for forbidden pleasures. God would have us be holy in deed and thought. He would have us hate sin and love righteousness. So, as prodigal brides who have been redeemed, rescued and restored by the good groom, let us seek to cherish him ONLY in our hearts. Let us work to love him with ALL our hearts, souls, mind and strength. Let us guard our hearts, for spiritual prostitution begins with unaddressed affections.
* I am not sure from where I learned this quote.
Scripture Reading Plan:
Tuesday, December 10 – Hosea 1-4; Jude 1
Wednesday, December 12 – Hosea 5-8; Revelation 1
Thursday, December 13 – Hosea 9-11; Revelation 2
Friday, December 14 – Hosea 12-14; Revelation 3
Saturday, December 15 – Joel 1-3; Revelation 4
Sunday, December 16 – Amos 1-3; Revelation 5