God’s Relentless Love
Early in my ministry I conducted a marriage vow renewal ceremony for nine elderly couples. Several of the couples were married more than sixty years. Some of the couples couldn’t hold hands any more. One of the couples, the man couldn’t say “I do,” but everyone in that room said it for him. In one case, the husband had had a stroke, and the wife was still very mobile and attractive, but she did not forsake him. What a joy to see that! It’s rare in our country.
Marriage is a picture of God’s love for His church. Christ will never leave His bride. God’s love is relentless. That’s what we are going to find out in the book of Hosea.
Marriage: God’s Love Story for Us
But marriage is a picture of something greater than us. It’s about the greatest love story ever: God’s love for us. The Bible story is that God vows to never leave you—whether you are rich or poor, whether you are sick or healthy—He promises to love you and care for you unconditionally. His love is unrelenting in His love to undeserving sinners.
As C. S. Lewis put it:
No sooner do we believe that God loves us than there is an impulse to believe that He does so, not because He is Love, but because we are intrinsically lovable. The pagans obeyed this impulse unabashed; a good man was “dear to the gods” because he was good. We, being better taught, resort to subterfuge. Far be it from us to think that we have virtues for which God could love us. But then, how magnificently we have repented! As Bunyan says, describing his first and illusory conversion, “I thought there was no man in England that pleased God better than I.” Beaten out of this, we next offer our own humility to God’s admiration. Surely He’ll like that? Or if not that, our clear-sighted and humble recognition that we still lack humility. Thus, depth beneath depth and subtlety within subtlety, there remains some lingering idea of our own, our very own attractiveness. It is easy to acknowledge, but almost impossible to realize for long, that we are mirrors whose brightness, if we are bright, is wholly derived from the sun that shines upon us. Surely we must have a little—however little—native luminosity? Surely we can’t be quite creatures? (The Four Loves)
An Extreme Case of Unrelenting Love: Hosea
I want to show you an extreme case of unrelenting love in Hosea. Hosea is a tiny little book. You can read it in its entirety in just a few minutes. There are fourteen short chapters, autobiographically written by a prophet called Hosea married to a prostitute named Gomer. He was living in the late 700s before Christ. He is preaching to Northern Israel that is about to be devastated and carried away by the Assyrian Kingdom.
Hosea and his wife Gomer had three children, but tragedy struck that home even before the children came. For some unexplainable reason deep within the confines of Gomer’s fallen heart, Gomer decided to thwart that love, and seduced by the allurements of the night life, she walked out of her home and started to sell herself in harlotry.
Many an evening this prophet—who would be seen preaching God’s Word during the day—would be seen in the streets of his beloved city looking for Gomer. At times we can imagine he’d be standing outside the brothel, just waiting for a moment to talk with her, to express his love to her, and to win her back. Through the prophet Hosea’s situation, God displays His love for us in such extraordinary terms. I want us to consider three profoundly moving truths. I promise you if we understand these truths it will be the most revolutionary thing—because from these truths, everything we know about love is defined.
Isn’t it ironic that, 2000 years after the coming of Christ, the Bible has been translated into thousands of languages, movies have been made about the life of Christ, and yet the world still is divided and does not seem to have a clue about the love of Christ?
But lets go back to the passage and consider these three truths as they unfold. The first truth is this:
1. God’s Love is Undeserved, 1:1-2
Here we learn about the man, Hosea. What we find is that he is relentless in his love to an undeserving wife. That love is really the story of the entire Bible. The Bible is God’s love story to us undeserving and unfaithful sinners.
When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said 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.” (Hosea 1:2)
Hosea was one of only two writing prophets who ministered to the northern kingdom of Israel (Amos was the other). During the same time period Isaiah and Micah prophesied to the southern kingdom of Judah.
At the beginning of Hosea’s ministry, the northern kingdom was quite prosperous under the reign of Jeroboam II. But though things appeared to be calm on the surface, underneath the torrents of the kingdom’s destruction were swirling. The nation had forsaken the Lord. Though they retained allegiance to the Lord with their lips, their hearts were far from Him.
They had begun to mingle elements of the Canaanites’ fertility religion with the worship of the Lord by engaging in sexual rites and drunken orgies. These rituals were thought to secure abundant rain and the fertility of the land for their crops—even the fertility of their women in childbirth. During these days of political and religious upheaval there prophesied a man whose very name means “salvation.” His name was a glimmer of hope in the midst of a message of destruction.
Why Would a Holy Man Love Such a Woman?
We the truth of unrelenting love as we observe Hosea looking for his wife who has broken her bond of commitment to him. Somebody probably stands in the street and says, “We love you, we respect you, we honor you. You’re a man of integrity. But we do have a question for you. How can a holy man of God like you be in love with a filthy adulterous harlot like that?” And Hosea says—“I’m really glad you asked, and I have an answer for you. Now I’m beginning to wonder how a holy God like that could love such an adulterous nation like us.” Hosea raises that question in his own mind.
Someone wisely said, “So often our disappointment from foiled plans is only the hidden love of God in action, saving us from greater destruction to ourselves.”
Why Israel? A Look at the Heart of God
Hosea takes a microscopic look at the heart of God. Go back across the centuries. When God was looking for a nation through which He would reveal Himself, why did He not go to Greece?
Greece was the land of philosophers. Most scholars today will tell that most of western thought today is merely footnotes to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle—all from Greece, the cradle of western philosophy. But He didn’t go to Greece.
Why didn’t God go to Rome? That glorious city that was not built in a day, with the majesty of the Caesars and the brilliance of the Roman Senate. And they had the mightiest military power in all of the ancient world! But God didn’t go to Rome.
Why didn’t God go to Babylon, which built its magnificent palaces of splendor? Babylon was renowned because of many architectural wonders and their botanical gardens encased in their cities. But God didn’t go to Babylon.
God did not seek out the philosophical greatness of Greece, or the military might of Rome, or the architectural wonders of Babylon. He chose to call Abraham of Ur of the Chaldeans, who would be the father of a little tiny nation.
The love of God is undeserved. One thing we see clearly in Israel’s history is that things were never really good—they were usually between bad and worse! Israel did not deserve the love of God. Israel had no respect from the nations, but she did have the unrelenting love of God. Israel would be laughed at by Greece, abused by Rome and enslaved by Babylon!
And while they would later be enslaved in Babylon, God says to that tiny nation, “[H]e who touches you touches the apple of my eye” (Zech. 2:8).
If you read it in Hebrew, it actually reads, “the little maiden of my eye.” Do you know what that metaphor means? It is so deeply touching. It is like you telling the girl you love, “Come close, come closer, come very close, and look into my eyes, and when you can see that little reflection of yourself in my eyes, you will know that you are my precious maiden!” God takes that boundless, relentless love to a most undeserving group of people and He says to them, “You are that little maiden in my eye, you are the apple of my eye.”
Why has God blessed us so abundantly? We enjoy such luxury and comfort. Have you ever asked God: “Why me? Why have you loved me with this kind of an everlasting love?” That’s why the songwriter says:
What language shall I borrow
to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever,
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
outlive my love to Thee.
Matt Black is originally from Oak Forest, Illinois though he spent much of his growing up years in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. He studied theology and Spanish for his undergrad and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Reformed Theological Seminary. He is a candidate for certification with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). He and his wife Jill have three daughters and two sons.