Friday, May 2, 2014

Hosea and the Heart of God: The Shattered Heart of Gomer

Nathan JonesBy Nathan Jones

We continue on with our second installment of our faith study of the biblical Minor Prophets book of Hosea. This time we'll explore one of the ways we receive a broken, shattered heart by looking at the life and character of the woman Gomer.


A Shattered Heart

Have you ever had your heart shattered into a million pieces? Are you even now anguishing in that excruciating pain? Maybe the cause was betrayal or abandonment by a loved one such as a wayward spouse or rebellious child. Possibly it's by a failed career, crushed dreams, lost hopes, or personal failure.

The experience is like running through an obstacle course of emotions, isn't it? One minute we can feel such stabbing emotional pain that it attempts to overwhelm and destroy us. The next minute we experience an uncontrollably rage at the injustice of it all. We cry, we plead, we call out, we lose sleep and our health diminishes, but in the end we're ultimately left feeling hollow, bitter and, oh, so very alone. The price of a broken heart appears to be the very dissolution of our soul.

In the first three chapters of the Bible's book of Hosea, the first of the twelve Minor Prophets, we are introduced to two people who have also had their hearts shattered, though for very different reasons. They are real people. They may have lived long ago, well, very long ago, approximately 740 years before Christ's birth. They may have lived in a nation very different than your own, which was the ancient Northern Kingdom of Israel set on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea. The culture may have also been very different, being the Hebrew people whom we now call the Jews or Israelis. They ate different foods, they lived in a farming and livestock-based economy, they rode donkeys and mules, their clothes were made of coarse, woven fabric and their footwear consisted of sandals.

But, as for the heart, they were as human as we are today. They had thoughts, emotions, desires and dreams and yearned to be loved and accepted. Where it matters most, people are people no matter where and when they may be found. And, like us, they suffered pain and the subsequent trials of maintaining faith when their hearts were shattered.

The shards are lying all scattered around you. Therefore, let's learn why the trials in life happen and discover how to gain the faith that repairs the broken pieces of your heart. We'll do that by delving into the lives of these two people from the book of Hosea. Though long deceased, their life stories continue to be lived out by us today.


Gomer — The Faithless Bride

Though the book is called Hosea, and that is the name of the man in our story and the author, the life experiences of Hosea revolve around his wife, so we'll start with her.

We find in chapter one that Hosea's wife is named Gomer. Not a great name by today's standards, nevertheless she caught Hosea's eye, though possibly not for the right characteristics one may look for when choosing a wife. You see, Yahweh God had told Hosea to find a wife who at first may be just as pure as the nation of Israel was upon entering the Promised Land, but had a wandering eye which would eventually get her into serious moral trouble. So, whatever virtue Gomer may have begun with in their relationship, we know she started out with some serious character flaws.

In that ancient culture, Hosea would have gone to Gomer's father Diblaim and paid the bride price for her, and then Gomer, after an engagement time and wedding ceremony, would become Hosea's wife. The women of that time rarely had a say in who they married, so a wild-hearted woman such as Gomer may have, during the engagement period, already begun exhibiting the unfaithful behaviors that would spell trouble for their coming marriage.

Not too long into Hosea and Gomer's marriage, we discover in chapter two that Gomer has other major character deficiencies. For starters, she's quite vain, which leads to a self-centered materialism that aches for the finer things in life. Saks Fifth Avenue is where she'd be each day, window shopping the expensive fashions and jewelry. She's totally greedy and never satisfied, incessantly nagging her husband to pick up that third job to provide her more fun money, which she then has the nerve to spend on her boyfriends. The life of the all-night party, Gomer's the crazy drunk, twerking it up topless on the tables. Her wandering eye turns into full-blown adultery, and like a dog in heat, she chases after her long list of boy toys who give her the goods she craves. For a gold anklet or the next high, Gomer prostitutes her body as payment.

On the home front, Gomer bears three children over time, but it's questionable whether the second and third are even actually Hosea's. With all the affection of Cinderella's stepmother, Gomer sees her babies as brats wasting precious time from her parties and attentions, and so utterly abandons them for her latest lover's house. In between hook-ups, she does manage to make fleeting appearances back at home, but is always quickly out the door again when she thinks the next best offer comes beckoning.

Hosea and his God repulse Gomer, so to be spiteful she chases after the pagan gods of the land. These demonic gods demand she ritually burn incense and feast and prostitute herself before their stone altars used in child sacrifice.

Two things happen to Gomer by chapter three. First, after a wild ride of a life, she's doused hard by the cold reality that her life contains absolutely no joy whatsoever. She's utterly miserable no matter how much she fills her life with material and sexual pleasures. Nothing seems to fill that empty hole in her heart. Second, hard living has taken its toll on her body, and only the dregs of the back alleys want to be with her.

Finally, she owns nothing but debt. In that culture, a person would have to work off the payments as a slave, and that's where we find Gomer. She's sold her body for mere pleasures and trinkets, and now she sells it to survive because that's all that she has left to offer. She's impoverished, hopeless, pitiless, defiled and unwanted by all around her. Gomer has made herself toxic to her own people and they rightly want nothing to do with such a wretchedly mean individual. Having betrayed everyone in her treachery and now all alone, she's left with nothing but a broken, shattered heart—all of her own making.


In the third part of this series on faith in the book of Hosea, we'll discover the second way one can have their heart shattered by looking at the life and character of the prophet Hosea.

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