Have you ever looked back over your life before Christ and realized that He was there with you the whole time? I can’t tell you the number of times I can look back and see His work in my life – long before I gave Him my life. I grew up a Christian, did the whole Confirmation thing in 5th grade and said the prayer, got baptized, the whole shebang – but it was almost a decade before I truly understood what that meant and gave my life over to the Lord. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe when God was real, I just didn’t want to live like He had called me to live, so I left Him by the wayside as I traveled down a broken road. I don’t know if you can relate or not, but as I read Hosea 2, I read my early life. Read it with me:
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.’
6 Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns,
and I will build a wall against her,
so that she cannot find her paths.
7 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.’
8 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.
Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t an actual whore, but neither were the Israelites (which is just who this passage is about). This passage is about being unfaithful to God, the selling of oneself – be it in body, morality, or love – for personal gain. He has called us to be His and His alone; to love Him and put His above all other loves. He is our gain. The Shema, the Jewish declaration of faith, is Deuteronomy 6:4-9:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
The very heart of Judaism and Israelite culture, is this passage, the Shema. The one thing they were to remember at all times was that the Lord God is the one and only God, whom they shall love with the entirety of their being. They were to pass it down from generation to generation so love for God would never be lost.
This passage out of Hosea 2 writes a very different tale, however. This passage speaks of them leaving their first love like a whore – selling herself to the highest bidder. What I love about this passage, however, is that there is not only a sense of judgment, but one of being lost, of not knowing. The woman (metaphorically Israel) thinks that her lovers are the one who are providing for her. When I think of a whore, however, I think of desperation. A thinking that there is no other option. A sense of “I must do this before I die of starvation or lack of necessities.” There is no belief left that there might be a God that not only loves them, but that will provide. They do not know or understand that He is the lover of our souls, and only one who can give us the things we need to survive this incredibly cruel world. But we, like the whore, like Israel, we lose faith. We don’t believe that God will actually pull through. So we do things out of desperation that we would never do otherwise.
I felt like this out of my guilt and shame. In my early 20s, I served God desperately – but not out of love – out of shame and guilt. I thought if I could just do enough, maybe I could rid myself of the weight of my sin. Like the whore, I was hopeless that there was a God that would love me in spite of my shame. Hopeless. Desperate.
We do not have to live hopeless and desperate lives! God is waiting and calling to us, desperate for us to come to Him – mired in guilt, in shame, in sin. Because He knows that He is the only one who can remedy that! He knows that only He, through the blood of the Lamb, can lift off the weight and knit us back together into blessed wholeness. We think that we can’t come to Him because of where we’ve been; but we can’t see that He has walked the whole ugly journey with us. He’s been there the whole time – oftentimes saving us from the horrendous situations we’ve put ourselves in, or giving to us in the exact moment when we thought we could go on no longer.
Like the words in Hosea 2:8, “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.“
God was providing for Israel long after they forgot Him – even knowing that the things He provided would be used to worship another god! God has been there for us, providing for us, long before we believed in His existence, or acknowledged Him as Lord. He was there, He knows it all, and He calls to us saying, “It was me! The whole time, it was me that provided for you and rescued you over and over again.” We may not see His hand in our lives, but, Beloved, I promise you, it is there. Praise Him for His incredible love and faithfulness and then worship and love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. He deserves nothing less. Amen.