Sunday, October 12, 2014

Amazing Love!

I watched the video of the Hosea story from the Old Testament and felt the wonder.  That God would even ask one of his men to marry a woman who would be unfaithful to him is hard to understand.  But that was Hosea's call,  and he married Gomer, laying down dreams and hopes for a secure and happy family life. God's greater purposes for his people were being served. A Father showing his children sacrificial love and the extent he was willing to go to be close to them. He would demonstrate that extreme love through Hosea's life.

Just as Hosea's spouse rejected him and was unfaithful, so God's children had left him to adulterate themselves to other gods.  And just as God would inspired Hosea with unfailing love so that he could buy Gomer back to himself, God wanted to redeem his people.  If they would only turn back to him!

So several years and three kids--who may or may not have been fathered by Hosea --later, God asks Hosea a hard thing.

Then God ordered me, “Start all over: Love your wife again,
    your wife who’s in bed with her latest boyfriend, your
        cheating wife.
Love her the way I, God, love the Israelite people,
    even as they flirt and party with every god that takes their fancy.”
 I did it. I paid good money to get her back.
    It cost me the price of a slave.
Then I told her, “From now on you’re living with me.
    No more whoring, no more sleeping around.
    You’re living with me and I’m living with you.”
Hosea 3:1-3

Hosea was God's prophet who obeyed the call, but he was a man, too, with emotions and needs.  What would life had been like for him? Had Gomer left the home?  Did she neglect the children?  Did Hosea have childcare and household duties that a man normally would not have had?  Had she left for good, or did she try and hide her forays from the neighbors by leaving undercover of the dark? Was Hosea so saintly that he held no resentment or anger?

Whatever the details, it couldn't have been an easy assignment for Hosea.  Add to that, friends' and neighbors' curiosity and gossip, maybe even advice for Hosea to pursue the Law's provision for adultery, and Hosea was truly alone in his commission. 

I don't doubt that our God could grant Hosea forgiving Love and even the kind of hungering Love God had for the people he had chosen.  But that is the amazing-ness of this love.  Love that transcends personal hurt.  Love that hopes in spite of past history, in spite of no evidence of desire for repentance.  Love that forgives before the offender even acknowledges the offense.  Love that waits...long...  Love that continues to call when no one is listening.  Love that believes for the best.  Love that never dies.

The film I watched has Hosea buying Gomer at an auction, after she had been cast out and abused by other lovers.  After her dignity was completely gone.  After she was utterly along and undesirable, Hosea rescues her.

But I imagine it was not an easy reunion. Was Gomer grateful or self-loathing? Trustful towards love or hate-filled against ever loving again?  Joy filled or jaded?  Hosea's heart was set with obedience to God and willingness to allow Gomer back into his heart.  Doing the right thing, however, doesn't guarantee instant change into wholeness and feel-good emotions. 

And Hosea and Gomer's story ends.  We can hope that Gomer's heart was won by Hosea's amazing heroic love towards her, forever.  That his enduring, sacrificial love convinced her to never wander again.

Jesus demonstrates this unconditional love by laying down his life for us.  His death was God's payment to buy us back to himself. Jesus told the story of a son who leaves home and squanders the family inheritance. When he is completely wasted he returns to home, and his Father forgives him without question and embraces the one he had lost with great rejoicing.

Earthly family is ordained by God to contain his amazing Love.  I'm watching my husband's family in the midst of caring for  his aging parents. Dad's chest frame was opened so new aortic tissue could replace a worn out valve. Now he works hard to regain his independence as he cooperates with therapeutic regimens in a health care center.  Kevin and his two sisters have sacrificed time off from work and other activities to sit together through surgery, provide food for Mom so she doesn't have to cook for herself, transport both of them to doctor's appointments and make frequent visits to the hospital and care facility. They've celebrated birthdays in new settings with non-traditional food to accommodate new diets, and all this among the new faces of healthcare workers.

Grandchildren have come for visits or face-timed on iPads.  They've sent flowers, brought games for Grandpa to play and traveled from out of town to clean house for Grandma. I'm taking in God's amazing love in action, his kingdom coming to earth, his will being done here as it is in heaven.  I am privileged to be here, to be included.

Perhaps family to you is only disappointment, strife, rejection, neglect or even abuse. You long since stopped hoping this kind of love could ever be your experience.Or maybe family was pretty good, but your structure had holes in the roof and no one knew how to repair them. You're dealing with some damage. Your earthly family may never provide this Love, but your heavenly Father has never stopped offering it to you.  If you'll accept his gift of adoption, he'll repair the broken pieces of your heart, wash the wrongs and sins away through the blood of Jesus, and give you home better than you ever imagined it to be. You'll be part of the family of other believers who will love you, not perfectly, but there will be forgiveness and second chances and God's promise to never leave you and grace that covers a multitude of sins.  He'll transform your way of thinking and you'll look more and more like your big brother Jesus as you get to know him better.

Why wait? Come in, come back, come now. 
Father, thank you for your love that never ends.  Forgive me for taking it for granted.  For the times I've not been responsive to your desires and initiative, forgive me.  May I be enthralled by you only, ever captivated with your amazing Love.  Use me to demonstrate this love to those who once knew your love but have been enticed by other lovers. Teach me how to offer this love to those who never knew it existed.  May I bear your family resemblance. That they would say that I have your eyes, that  my walk is like yours, that my voice sounds just like my dad's, that I would be accused of being the apple that doesn't fall far from the tree.

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