I want to tell you a story today about a friend of mine. We grew up in the same small town. It was the kind of place where everybody knows everything, a place where it’s hard to keep a secret. What I’m going to tell you was pretty well-known to most folks.His name was Hosea, and he was my best friend. It’s a common enough name where I’m from. It means “The Salvation of the LORD.” When we were kids we’d play together and have adventures like boys do everywhere. He was a lot more serious than I was, and took his Hebrew lessons to heart. Me? I had enough religion to be respectable. For all that, we were pretty close friends.
As we got older, we got interested in girls. I got engaged early to a farmer’s daughter, and our lives were pretty much planned out from the start. We knew we’d marry, have kids, and I’d work the family farm. It’s what folks usually did.
It wasn’t that way with Hosea, though. I suppose he always knew he’d be a preacher. At least none of us was surprised when he got the call to be God’s man. He was about as fine a person as I ever knew, and I was proud to call him my friend.
There was something unusual about him, though. From very early on, he had his heart set on the one girl in town who was known as a wild child. Her name was Gomer, and it seemed strange, him being so serious, and her being so, well, flighty would be one word for it. None of us ever thought she’d make a very good preacher’s wife. She teased and flirted with all the boys and got a real reputation in our small town. Still, Hosea was as serious about her as he was about everything else in life.
He finally got her to marry him. She seemed to settle down at first, but it wasn’t long, before she just wasn’t content to stay at home. They even had three kids, but one day, she up and left him. Went to the big city she did, and rumors were flying about her lifestyle there. It was hard on Hosea. Everybody talked about them, and, though they felt sorry for the young preacher and his children, they all seemed to know this was going to happen, and in a way, it served him right for marrying her in the first place.
When Hosea did go out to preach, he used his experience as a example of how the people of Israel treated God. He said that they hadn’t been true to the Lord, and had wandered away as an unfaithful wife. His speech made everybody uncomfortable, but that’s the way it is with prophets. Their sermons can pierce you right through, and, though you may not like it, you know what they’re saying is true.
We all felt bad for Hosea, but we figured it was best for him just to raise the kids by himself. It came as quite a surprise, then, when he told me that the Lord wanted him to redeem Gomer from the life that she gotten herself into. “It’ll cost you plenty,” I warned him, but he said it was the right thing to do.
It seemed that her party life had played out, and now she was just another body to be used by whoever had the coin to pay for her. She remembered those good years when she and Hosea were first married. She often wished she could go back, but she knew she couldn’t. She had convinced herself that Hosea wouldn’t want her, and besides, she owed service to her master. Life hadn’t turned out the way she thought it would.
When Hosea found the squalid place where she worked, he went to the master of the house and said he wanted to redeem her. The owner looked him up and down. “You can have her if you want her,” he jeered as he took the 15 silver pieces and several measures of barley. Hosea made his way down a dark hallway. Several doors opened off the hall, each covered by curtain, with a lit candle when a girl was available.
He stepped into her room. She didn’t even look up. She thought he was just another customer, until he spoke her name. She knew him then, but she curled up in the corner and cried. She was so ashamed. She did not want him to see her like this, but he spoke tenderly to her. “I’ve come to take you home,” he said. “I couldn’t go with you even if I wanted to,” she sobbed. “The master of the house would never let me go.”
“Oh, he’ll let you go all right,” Hosea assured her. “I’ve paid the price, and you don’t owe him anything. I mean to take you home, home to stay, for good and all.” So she gathered her few belongings and left with Hosea. The landlord laughed at them as they left his establishment. Gomer shook with fear, but Hosea put his arm around her. “Pay no attention to him. He can’t hurt you now,” and then he brought her home.
The story of Hosea and Gomer is the story of God and wayward humanity, too. In the story of Hosea and Gomer, love wins. Thank God that love wins for us, too.
Because of love, Hosea paid the price of redemption so that Gomer could go free. Because of God’s love, Jesus paid the price of our redemption, too. We can’t afford to redeem ourselves from the thoughts, words, and deeds that are outside of God’s will. Though we may not have wandered as far as Gomer did, we, too, need to be redeemed. Redemption by grace through faith sets us free.
It’s the way love wins.