|The Broken Heart of God|
Lord, How Can I?
The Lord came to Hosea, a prophet of God, bound and determined to glorify the Almighty; ...Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord (Hosea 1;2b NASB). “Lord”, exclaimed Hosea; “How can a man of God marry a prostitute?” To be sure this was God speaking, but how can God ask me to join myself with such sin, Hosea thought to himself. Strangely, he felt a pulsating love in his heart for this woman, Gomer. He was not sure if this was good or bad. I don’t understand but I must obey Him, Hosea decided.
The first years were happy ones. Hosea was very affectionate and Gomer reciprocated. Their first child was born and the Lord directed he be named, Jezreel. He was to be a sign of retribution to the nation.
A rift started to come into their marriage. Hosea noticed that other men were showing her increasing attention. Quick looks and coy glances were becoming evident as Gomer’s beauty was proving to be a snare to her. She kept it veiled, but her expressions and body language communicated she enjoyed the attention. What must I do, Hosea contemplated. He concluded that the only thing he could do was to pray.
Their second child was born, this time a girl. A haunting question started to arise in Hosea’s thoughts. Was she his? The Lord said to call her Lo-ruhama (Hosea 1:6), unloved or no compassion. His fears only continued to mount. When Lo-ruhamah was weaned a third child was born. The Lord directed he be named Lo-ammi (Hosea 1:9), literally, not my people or no kin of mine. Hosea could not deny it. He was not his son. He was stunned and dazed as his worse fears had become a reality. She had left his love for another’s lust.
The Look on Her Face Pierced His Heart
“Oh Lord, what do I do”, Hosea cried? He still had an unquenchable love for his wife but as a man of God he could not be in companionship with sin. Even though he felt as if his heart is was being toward apart, he knew what he must do. “You must turn from your lovers and be true to me”, Hosea pleaded. With a breaking heart he gazed into the eyes of the one he loved, and waited trembling. Like a drowning man searching for lifeline, he grasped for a sign of repentance. She raised her head and looked into his eyes. The look of indifference on her face was like a dagger going into his heart. Finally, there was a one-word reply, an emotionless, no!
Crushed in grief, he sought vainly to hold back the tears. He sat quietly and listened to her gathering up her things to leave him. He heard the door open and then close and the sound of her fading footsteps. He had an almost overpowering impulse to stop her. But no, love to be true must be holy. Finally, though straining to hear them, the sound of her footsteps were gone. He waited for a time in silence, hoping against hope that she would reconsider and return to him. Eventually, loneliness crept over him. He burst into tears.
With tears still in his eyes, the children came into the room. “Where is mama”, they asked? “Why did she leave?” He had no answer. At the supper table that night there was a conspicuous empty place. Lo-ruhama cried, “I want my mama.” Hosea wanted to cry with her. But he must not give way before his children. They gathered for evening prayers; “take care of Mama and bring her home safely”, they prayed with faltering lips.
The Cry of a Broken-Hearted God
Later that night he tucked his children in bed and soon they were sound asleep. He walked into the next room and threw himself down and gave way to his grief. He sobbed out the sorrow of his soul. “This cross of suffering you have given to me, oh Lord, seems unbearable”, he lamented. Anguish passed into bitter agony and out of dark despair he cried, “Oh God, why”? The answer came in an unexpected manner. Worn out from weeping, he sat and stared into space. He heard the sound of weeping and turned his head to listen. His children were asleep. Who could this be? Then came some words. How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel (Hosea 11:8 NASB)? That night Hosea learned he did not suffer alone. The voice he heard was the cry of a broken-hearted God sorrowing over the sins of His people. As Gomer had rejected Hosea’s love, Israel had been untrue to her God. Hosea was experiencing the fellowship of God’s suffering. That night he learned that without suffering there is no love and as a prophet, you can’t give away what you don’t have. A message was born in Hosea’s heart; there is an awful price of suffering in the heart of God and love must and will find a way.
God’s All Pursuing Love
As time when on, one day Hosea was praying. A voice spoke, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress....” (Hosea 3:1 NASB). It was the same voice that spoke to him years ago to take a wife. To be sure it was God’s voice.
The next morning he walked down the same road that Gomer had walked months before. He came to the city of Bethel. He proceeded through nice section of the city and into the slums. He found his way into the slave market. He caught a glimpse of a girl. Was this Gomer? He starred at her, hardly recognizing his own wife. Sin had taken its toll. With a pounding heart he purchased her. He bought her for fifteen pieces of silver and a homer and a half of barley (v. 3:2). She held her head in shame. She had sold her soul to sin and had ended up in bondage to the slave master. In spite of all her waywardness her husband was redeeming her. Can this really be happening, she wonders.
They turned and started their trip home. They walked along silently. Then Hosea spoke, “I love you. Every day I have longed for you. My heart has never lost its love for you and not once did I give up hope that you would return. All the past is forgiven and we will never speak of it again. You must stay with me and never be untrue again.
She saw their little house in the distant. What once had been so confining now looked inviting. As they entered the house, it looked so good compared to the slave market. Suddenly Gomer saw herself as she really was. She saw the awfulness of sin. “God, how could I have been so selfish, only thinking about myself? Lord, please forgive me” she pleaded. After all I have done, could God ever forgive me. Hosea had, she thought. All of a sudden, like a burst of light from heaven, a thought invaded her mind. God’s heart of forgiveness had already been offered to her through the love of her husband. Hosea had done only what he saw God already doing. Mercy was God’s idea and Hosea was just the messenger. She looked up to heaven with a radiant smile through tears of joy and received that forgiveness. God’s all pursuing love had found a way.
To All The Broken-hearted
Some of you reading this story have experienced, like Hosea, the fellowship of Christ’s suffering. This story is for you. I must tell all of you, that you have never cried alone. God has counted every tear and has collected them in his bottle of remembrance. God is birthing a message in your heart. Without suffering there is no love. And love must and will find a way.
How can we, His creation, reject this kind of love? But, like Gomer, we do. Yet, God just keeps on loving.
1. I first heard this story told by Don Stephens, founder of Mercy Ships.
2. Some who read a story like this feel that it may humanize God. Ravi Zacharias has said when addressing the nature of God; “He is a self-sufficient God who has no lack.” God does not need anybody or anything. He is complete in Himself. He’s God. But the Bible records that at times God is sad, he is grieved; he is angry, or joyous. We are made in His image therefore we have these same emotions. But there is a difference between God’s sadness and ours. When we are rejected we are sad and hurt because we have lost. Lost a relationship, lost respect, fair treatment, etc. When God is rejected, He is sad, not because He has lost (remember He self-sufficient), but because He knows that without Him we have lost. His love, unlike ours, is perfect, not self-centered. It’s unconditional, always seeking our best.
In writing this story, it was not my purpose to make God more like us, but help us to be more like God.
Ken Barnes the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places” YWAM Publishing